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Pentecost Sunday, 2018 Year B. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney Australia. ‘Go out to the whole world in loving boldness as my Foot washers’, says the Lord. kevin.w3@bigpond.com

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Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost: we hear in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles that the Spirit of God, poured out as ‘gift’ on the Apostles, who had gathered together out of fear, were transformed into a group filled with the breath of God, and boundless energy and Joy. They then became fearless, daring and joyful proclaimers of the nearness of God’s Kingdom. Today in God’s Word we hear echoes from the Old Testament Prophet Ezekiel 36:24-28, who hundreds of years before, looked forward to an outpouring of God’s Spirit in a ‘gob smacking’ way! Let us see what the Prophet had to say: ‘I will gather my people from among the nations, and bring you home to your own land. I will pour clean water over you, and cleanse you of all defilement. I will take away your hearts of stone, and give you hearts for love instead. I will put my Spirit in you, and you will keep my laws and sincerely observe my commandments. You will be my people, and I will be your God.’

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Christian tradition has called this Feast, the Birth of the Church! However, its Religious origins go back to Old Testament times, when our ancestors in faith celebrated the initiating of the Covenant between Y-HW-H, (Adonai) and His people, through Moses on Mt. Sinai. This Covenant is summed up in the last line from the Prophet Ezekiel: ‘you will be my people, and I will be your God.’ That event marked a ‘special’ stage and advancement in the ‘corporate mind’ of our ancestors in faith, as they realized that they were truly God’s People and they in fact belonged to God. It was around this time each year, that coincided with the Feast of Harvest; what an appropriate time for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the maturing Apostles? At Pentecost, the Apostles and Mary, were transformed from a community gathered out of ‘waiting & questioning’ into a community of loving out-reach, and gentle boldness in their missionary ventures. The language of Pentecost defies all spoken language…. it is the word of loving action, and identification with, and a belonging to the Living Lord, who urged the Apostles and urge us to ‘Go out’ to all nations as living witnesses of our God, who ‘is with us’… at all times, even to the end of the world.

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Now let’s look at today’s Gospel under the microscope! In the fourth Gospel, the Johannine community has the coming of the Holy Spirit in the evening of the day of Resurrection. Now, this becomes one of the appearances of the Risen Lord to Mary and the Disciples. For John and his community the evening is really the beginning of a new week, a new creation, the beginning of a new order of things within the economy of Salvation for all. In Scripture, evening time is a special time of stillness and at-oneness with God in prayer and gazing. There are many instances of this in the Old and New Testament. Notice that the doors were closed, hence the room where the disciples could be looked upon as a tomb, a place of waiting for the breath of new life to be infused into the gathered community. Notice that it was FEAR which instigated the gathering into the room of the Disciples. We see that our Risen Lord enters into their fear, and offers them the first Easter gift; PEACE! What kind of PEACE is this? It would seem that it is the PEACE of a new beginning a new creation, but it is a PEACE for all people won through His wounds. The Wounded Risen Lord’s impact at their recognition was a transformation from FEAR to JOY! Once again the Easter Gift from the Risen Lord was imparted again. However, this gift, this transformation which took place within the Disciples carries with it a responsibility of Mission! ‘As the Father sent me, so I am sending you’. This is truly a Mission from God, because it is the I AM, or Y-H-W-H implied in this inspired text confirms that what happened to Jesus at his Baptism in Chapter 1:32 is now happening to the Disciples.

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There is still more! Notice that Jesus breathes of his disciples and says, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit…..’ now this cannot be done from a distance; no, it implies a very intimate communion between the Risen Lord and His Disciples. Let’s examine this….Think about the people who have breathed on you during your life. Your parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters, lovers. In the evening time of life for our parents, grandparents, brothers and sisters and lovers, we breathe on them. In this instance, it would seem that John and his community see this also as the moment of creative movement within the Disciples. Similar to the creative movement of the breath of God at the beginning of time, over the darkness of the deep as we read in Genesis. As with the work of creation, we were made to be caretakers and stewards of the creative order, here in this Pentecost experience, we see a new kind of stewardship that is of the forgiveness of sin and the Mission to bring Heaven to Earth as we pray in The Lord’s Prayer.

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So keeping that all in mind, we are called through Baptism and Confirmed in the Spirit, that we are called and sent out with the embodiment of PEACE…..in other words we are all called Jonah…… As Old Testament Prophet Jonah was called to convert the Nineveites after his experience of Salvation with the three day sojourn in the Belly of the Whale; his inner change manifested in and through peace was the invitation for the people to ‘change’. As Jonah embodied that Peace, he himself was the message…….or rather the conduit for God’s peace to trigger a ‘change of heart’ among the Pagans. A similar Mission goes for us and with us…….the first gift of Easter/Pentecost is that creative inner PEACE which runs deep within the fibre of our being, and is truly a gift from God for others. It is not a Gift to be put in the Pantry of our lives, where the moths will destroy. It is not a gift of timidity, but a gift of loving boldness in the midst of all odds that may seem to be against us.

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In this so called post Royal Commission era here in Australia into Institutional Sexual abuse, it seems to me that whilst the findings have set the alarm bells ringing, and ‘change’ in this whole procedure and understanding are most important, it saddens me to hear so many of our Bishops, continuing to be besotted by these findings, and they don’t seem to be able to get out of the rut of depression about it. Our ancestors in faith were in a rut whilst in Egyptian Slavery; Moses had to not only deal with people who easily gave in, but he had to boost the overall morale through his intimacy with the Lord God. I believed that here and now in our world, we have the clouds of shame on every horizon, but the Sun shines on the other side! Our Lord’s Passion, Death, Resurrection and the Holy Spirit, is alive and well, if we are alive and well in the Lord. We MUST be people who are daring for the Lord and not Control Freaks! We must own our past, and rejoice that the New Heavens and the New Earth are not going to just ‘happen’, WE, through and impelled by Christ, must make it happen in true love, absolute engagement with all cultures and religions…….but not out to Baptise everything one of thing that moves! It is not entirely up to us! It is up to us to have a 3D surround-sound vision of our world, and as Jonah walked through Nineveh, we have to walk with each other in the Lord as we walk our streets every days.

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So, now let’s have a closer look at the Spirit’s Gifts.

This Solemnity is a strong reminder to all of us of the Gifts of the Spirit that we have been given, and the responsibility that we all have in nourishing and using the Spirit’s Gifts. Wisdom, Understanding, Right Judgment, Courage, Knowledge, Reverence, Awe and Wonder.

We live in a multi-cultural society, and the differences in language and custom can easily reinforce the barriers which are counterproductive in the process of local and national identity. If we are truly spirit-filled people the language barrier is dissolved through listening, acceptance of diversity, and a desire to look for the goodness in each other. If we are intent in pursuing nit picking and negativity in new comers to our country, and in those who have their roots deep within this land, we run the high risk of cramping the creativity of the Holy Spirit. If we are in positions of leadership in the media, we should enable our Television shows and advertisements to be representative of the multi culturalism in our country. How representative are our Parliamentarians of our people? Australians have the grand opportunity to first desire to meet our new brothers and sisters, and it is only from the desire to meet, listen and share do we then have the formula for Reconciliation. It is absolute and total arrogance to dismiss our First Australian indigenous people as pre European civilizations! We who comes from Overseas, and I might add that I am a duel citizen like most Australians, we must get off our High Horse, and sit around the camp fire of storytelling and love with the people who have been wedded to this Land for over 50,000 years. Here we are as Europeans……just here 200 years! Food for thought!

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Perhaps the following prayer could be in our hearts and on our lips this day.
‘Holy Sacred Spirit, breathe your breath on us. Holy Sacred Spirit, breathe your life in us’. Words by Monica Brown, Song Album: A REMEMBERING HEART. God Bless you and your families, and may we never forget each other in prayer.

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Pentecost Sunday Year B, 2018. A Reflection by Fr Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne Australia. THE SPIRIT AT WORK.

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For this Pentecost Sunday let me start with a true story about how strongly the Holy Spirit works for good outcomes in human situations. The story comes from Northern Ireland (with thanks to Paul O’Reilly SJ for its core).

Northern Ireland is a particularly beautiful scenic place. But until recently it was a nation at war between two groups of people, Catholics and Protestants, divided along ethnic, social, cultural and religious lines. But after more than 40 plus years of violence, murder, injury, pain and suffering, peace has at last come to places where people simply did not expect to see any outbreak of peace in their lifetimes.

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How and why has peace been happening? Because the Holy Spirit of God has been at work. The long and drawn-out peace process has been the work of the Spirit. Slowly and tentatively – two steps forward and one step back – this peace process has gradually been replacing what people there have called ‘the Troubles’.

It seems, looking back, that there was one decisive turning point when the cycle and spiral of violence came to a sudden full stop. It was when a bomb exploded on Remembrance Day, November 8th, 1987, in the small town of Enniskillen (population about 10,000 persons). 12 people were killed and 72 were injured. Among those killed was a young woman called Marie Wilson. It was her 21st birthday. Some birthday present! Her last dying words to her father, Gordon Wilson, the Methodist minister of the town, were these: ‘Daddy, I love you very much.’

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An hour after the blast the BBC interviewed him. The journalist asked how he felt about the people who had just blown his daughter to bits on her birthday. Without a moment’s hesitation Gordon answered: ‘Of course I forgive them. I only hope that her Spirit may be with us and bring us to Peace.’

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The interview was played on the news that night. It was a moment that touched the nation. Since that moment of faith and forgiveness the momentum towards peace has changed for the better the long, violent and tormented history of Northern Ireland.

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That must surely be the work of the Spirit of Pentecost, the Spirit that Jesus let loose among us on the first Pentecost Sunday, the Spirit that breathes where it chooses, the Spirit that will never be snuffed out. That Spirit of God keeps on overcoming resistance and breaking down barriers.

Here in Australia, the Catholic Church has begun today the countdown to a very vital and promising event, scheduled to take place in 2020. It’s called ‘the Plenary Council’. It will be an assembly of the whole Catholic Church of Australia. It will engage the entire People of God, by means of its representatives. It will involve a comprehensive process of deeply listening to one another, of seeing, feeling, judging and acting together, and all this for the sake of a complete review, renewal and reform of the Church’s mission, outreach, structures and workings. The Holy Spirit present to the gathered Council can shine a spotlight on everything to do with the Church – the good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.

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Surely, this planned Plenary Council cannot succeed and will not succeed without the powerful presence and action of the Holy Spirit, who is the love of God at work within us and among us, the love that empowers us to listen to one another, understand one another and work together for the good of the whole Church. It will be concerned with every group and every individual within the Church, and especially, one hopes, with the poorest, the last and the least, those particularly dear to the heart of Jesus.

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That wise international Jesuit scholar, Gerald O’Collins, has said so well: ‘What we DO with the Church depends upon what we THINK about Jesus.’ So, in short, the Plenary Council 2020 will focus most of all on discerning, discovering, and applying the dream of Jesus for his Church in Australia.

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So let us pray today and every day, and over and over again, to the powerful Spirit of God that can overcome all resistance and break down every barrier: ‘Come Holy Spirit! Be for us the love of God at work, the love that “changes everything” and everyone. Create among us all a new, ongoing, and lasting Pentecost!’

Brian Gleeson

Bro Vicente CP with Fr Brian Gleeson CP

bgleesoncp@gmail.com

 

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5th Sunday of Easter Year B, 2018. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh Sydney-Australia. Together, we can make it happen! kevin.w3@bigpond.com

Vine and Branches

Together, we can make it happen!

This week’s gospel is linked closely to that of last week. Like the gospel about the Good Shepherd, Jesus uses another simple image of the vine and the branches, to teach the people about his relationship with them, and theirs with him. He uses an image with which all of his listeners would be familiar, and it would be very easy for them to understand. It is also easy for us to understand too. So let’s have a look at it.

This is really a very powerful teaching. We are attached to Jesus, just as he is to the Father. We can draw our life from him, so that he can produce fruit in us and through us, if we want to respond! In another part of the gospel Jesus tells us, “You didn’t choose me, I chose you, and appointed you to bear fruit, fruit that will last”. He speaks very simply and very clearly, even to the point of telling us that, apart from him, we can do nothing.

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Taking this theme even further, Jesus establishes and speaks of a direct chain of connection between the Father, himself, and us. It is obvious that he sees and thinks of us as being called to share in the divine life of the Trinity. We really need to pause and reflect upon that point…it is just so powerful, and thus we are empowered through the Holy Spirit to be The Living editions of the Good news! Not Museum artefacts! They are dead! Sometimes I wonder where the joy has gone with some of our Leaders and faithful.

Notice that a pruned Vine looks very much like a modern art form of Jesus on the Cross, or even a yolk for Oxen.

Pruning is necessary if fruit is to be brought forth in abundance from a vine, bush or tree. However, the Gardner has to have the wisdom to know what to prune, and how much, and what the possibilities could be as a result of this action. Branches are pruned to strengthen the tree’s growth and sometimes to produce more abundant fruit or flowers. Quite often, through trials and tribulations, we are pruned. Any worthwhile growth in our lives takes place during times of struggle, and never when everything is smooth, calm, and even. Sometimes we are pruned by each other. This can come about within a real spirit of love and forgiveness; it is on this basis of trust that we can tell the story just as it is to each other. In this act of faith, we can sometimes suffer, and bleed through the truth that someone else has told us, because it may well be the truth about us, and it might hurt, and the truth may be calling us to change, hence spiritual pruning is at work! What can hamper this growth??? Pride, Jealousy etc.….all the opposite gifts of the Holy Spirit.

Suffering can be another kind of pruning. Generally we don’t go looking for suffering in our life, it somehow finds us. Suffering can enable us to be more sensitive to other people, it can knock a few chips of the old block, which is me, and it can invite us to love more deeply. I once heard a great old Passionist Father Bonaventure CP, say to me….’Sometimes Our Lord puts us on our backs, so that we can look up into His eyes’ a great wise saying from a man who lived and grew through his relationship with Jesus and mission to His people. The great English writer C.S Lewis once said, “Jesus didn’t come to take suffering and pain away, He came to fill it with His presence”. That is something to chew on, because in lots of ways that is very true. Pruning can also be used as another metaphor when it comes to refining gold and silver in fire. Let check this out from the Old Testament Prophet Malachai
THE SILVERSMITH’S REFLECTION

READER 1.
For he is like a REFINER’S FIRE, and like a FULLERS’ ALKALI.
He will sit as a Refiner and Purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like Gold and silver, till they present right offerings to the Lord.

READER 2.
A person had observed that there is something remarkable in that expression of the Prophet Malachi:
‘He will sit as a REFINER AND PURIFER OF SILVER’.
It was agreed that a silversmith should be called in to give his opinion on the subject. Without disclosing the object, he was asked about the process of refining silver, which he described in detail.

READER 1.
‘But do you sit watching while the work of refining is going on?’ one asked. ‘Oh. Yes’, replied the silversmith, ‘I must sit with my eyes constantly fixed on the furnace, for if the necessary time be extended in the slightest degree, the silver will be injured’.

READER 2.
Christ sees it needful to put His children into the furnace; but He is seated by the side of it; His eye fixed steadily on the work of refining and purifying. His wisdom and His love are both engaged in the best manner for them. Their trials do not come at random; even the hairs on their heads are numbered.
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The silversmith said he still had to mention that he only knew when the process of purifying was complete, by seeing his own face reflected in the silver. Even so, when Christ shall see His own face in His children, He will know that the work of purifying is accomplished.

God’s Word can prune us as well. Every time that we hear God’s Word, there is an inbuilt invitation for us to respond. That response in us may call us to be pruned, to change our ways, our attitudes and values and hence endeavour to put on the mind of Christ. St. Paul goes into further details in his letter to the Philippians 2:1-5. You might like to look up the quote from the New Testament.

27th Sunday year A Vineyards
O Lord, grant that we may never be separated from you, so that we may produce in the world the fruits of faith, hope, and love. Amen

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5th Sunday of Easter, Year B, 2018. A Reflection by Fr Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne – Australia. STAYING CONNECTED TO JESUS.

STAYING CONNECTED TO JESUS.

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You will have noticed that every time the gospel is proclaimed in church it is presented as ‘according to’. Each gospel writer sees the same Jesus, but with different eyes. Our message about him today is ‘according to John’.

John’s Jesus presents the metaphor of the vine and the branches to describe the intimate relationship between Jesus and us, his followers. He is the true vine, his Father is the vine grower (15:1) and we are the branches attached to him (15:5). Only if we remain connected to him and he to us will we bear fruit, i.e. lead good, meaningful, useful, productive and worthwhile lives (15:4). What counts for John, then, is closeness to Jesus and lifelong friendship with him.

There are all kinds of ways in which this happens, but it’s happening where we are right here, right now. It’s happening in our liturgy, our shared prayer, our Eucharist, the one we are celebrating right now.

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It cannot be emphasised enough that liturgy is simply people praying, people praying together the prayer of their Church, i.e. its official prescribed prayer. As such, it’s something we do. But even more it’s something which God does.

What God does in liturgy continues what God has already done in history. This is his work of saving, i.e. of transforming human beings. This work of God reached its climax in the living, dying and rising of Jesus. ‘God so loved the world,’ says St John, ‘that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life’ (3:16).

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When God the Father raised Jesus from the dead he let loose among us the same power that animated Jesus from the cradle to the grave. This is the power of the Spirit of God, the Holy Spirit! The power that enriched his relationships! The power that led him to keep on loving God and God’s people! The power that spurred him into doing good – helping and healing wherever he could (Acts 10:38) The power that brought to people the understanding and compassion, the kindness, the comfort, and the healing of God! The power that forgave their sins, relieved their guilt, and gave them a brand new start! The power and joy of God’s on-going presence, friendship and support!

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It’s this very same Spirit of God that Jesus our Saviour keeps giving us when we come together to pray. His Spirit keeps refreshing, renewing and transforming our lives. He does not and will not leave us as we are. Slowly but surely we become more and more like Jesus. So liturgy has been called ‘an encounter with Christ in the fullness of his redeeming activity’.

To speak this way is to speak of liturgy as a gift, as a grace. But what God is doing in liturgy is only side of the picture. There is also our response to the presence and action of God working within and among us – our response of praise, thanksgiving, sorrow, petition, lament and self-offering.

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Liturgy as both gift and response takes shape as a dialogue, a conversation with God. On the one hand God keeps assuring us of his presence and love. On the other hand we respond with gratitude and faith, with trust and love.

It may be seen, then, that the pattern of liturgy parallels the pattern of the life, work and prayer of Jesus our Saviour: – To the Father, through the Son, and in the power of the Holy Spirit! As the conclusion of our every Eucharistic Prayer we explicitly acknowledge this as the pattern of our lives, work and prayer as well. So we say: ‘Through him, with him, and in him, O God Almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honour is yours, for ever and ever. AMEN.’

bgleesoncp@gmail.com

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Bro Vicente CP with Fr Brian Gleeson CP
 

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4th Sunday of Easter year B, 2018. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney-Australia. kevin.w3@bigpond.com ‘I am the good shepherd’.

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A teacher’s role is to guide others from the unknown to the known. Jesus was a brilliant teacher, and His listeners would all have been familiar with the unique relationship which existed between a shepherd and his sheep.

A good shepherd in Our Lord’s time knew every one of his sheep and their individual natures. It was somewhat like the way we know the nature of our pet Dog or Cat and in turn how they know our voices and show affection when they see us. However, Shepherds in Gospel times will stand with their sheep all day in the scorching heat, and at night they will sleep across the entrance to the cave to ensure their safety.

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Notice in the Gospels, we hear that the Shepherd leads his sheep … he never drives them. He simply walks ahead, and they listen to his voice, and follow him wherever he goes. On the other hand, goats have to be driven … they won’t follow their goat-herd. It’s interesting to hear Jesus using the shepherd separating the sheep from the goats to describe the final judgment. In other words, separating those who followed, from those who needed to be driven. Worth thinking about!

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Let’s now look at today’s Gospel Passage under the magnifying glass, so that we can know and appreciate the deeper meanings in this passage. We need to get a handle on the experience and its profound and extraordinary meaning with its impact, as it did for the Greek audience which heard this astonishing relationship between the Shepherd and the flock – the flock to the Shepherd, and the two way affiliation between the Shepherd and the Father.

The statement from Jesus in today’s Gospel, must be seen within the context of its original listeners to the dramatic declaration of Jesus claiming to be the Good Shepherd. OK, let’s go deep sea diving into the Scripture passage.

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John’s Gospel is presented to his Greek audience as a Drama, it has long speeches, engaging conversations and is littered with specific words and meanings which literally have the power to stun its listeners and readers. The Fourth Gospel has many plays on words which unfortunately in the English we can miss some of the deeper consequences of what is being said. If we were Greeks, listening to this Gospel, we would be gobsmacked, shaken and deeply stirred within. Let’s try and recover as much of this as we can for our purposes right now.

The Gospel of John is divided up into two Books: The Book of Signs and the Book of Glory. This passage comes from the first Book, the Book of Signs. We must keep this in mind as we reflectively read, ponder and pray from this extract.

Imagine, Jesus making a speech in an auditorium; all eyes are on him, the air is electric with expectation….then Jesus says, ‘I am the good shepherd……’ that phrase alone, would be enough to stun the listeners….why? In saying that Jesus is the I am, he is saying the sacred word, the sacred name of the lord God of the Old Testament! The I am who am, of the Book of Exodus, Chapter three. The sacred name which is never said, and the extraordinary reverence for that name, caused our ancestors in faith to call God, Adonai, or Lord God. Here Jesus goes right to the heart, and proclaims that he is the I am without any excuses for using the Divine name. So, having been knocked back in their seats as we hear the opening phrase of this speech by Jesus, let’s note that he is THE SIGN par excellence; the audience would have been spellbound just by the first word! In this passage, Jesus uses the I AM twice, and in both instances a different element within the personality of God is presented and acted out by Jesus. The first I AM is all about the extreme love and care of the shepherd for his sheep. It also calls us to realise again, the jealous love that the shepherd has for the sheep and the life-threatening lengths that the shepherd will go to for his sheep.

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The second time that Jesus uses the I AM the implications are all about knowing the sheep, knowing the Father, and the Father knowing Jesus. The verb to know in English is used in so many different ways that its meaning is only found within a context. Not so in Greek! In English, we might say, ‘Oh yes, I know those people in house number 24 in our street’. But the so called knowing might only be based on the frequent, ‘Good morning’ as we walk our dog, or a wave as we drive by. Or we might say to our friends…..’Yes, I know exactly what you are saying’. That is a bit closer to the Greek meaning….there seems to be more depth to this knowing than just a simple, ‘Hello’ or the occasional wave as we drive by. In Greek, the verb TO KNOW is specific in its meaning. In short, it means the deepest form of connection with someone else. It’s somewhat like a husband knowing his wife! Intimately and holistically; a union of oneness!

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So when Jesus uses the second I AM in the passage today, it is all about the intimacy of the Father, Son and sheep (us). We are precious in the Lord’s sight, mind and ultimate pastoral love. So much so, that in this relationship between the Lord and the Sheep, laying down one’s life through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus is taken for granted. Then we see that the Intimate relationship between God and Israel, is not selective, it is totally inclusive of all, if they wish to be part of the fold.

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So we can rightly ask ourselves what is the underpinning foundation for this unique relationship? The short answer is LOVE, in its fullest and extended meaning as we see drawn out all through the Old Testament, and then its culmination within the Word becoming one of us in all things but sin, and the new life and fresh breath that the Lord breathes into us as was his own resuscitation by the Father at the moment of Resurrection. That ‘breath’ that inner vigour and intimate understanding of the love like relationship between the Father and Son is freely given to us and is available for all humanity. We can’t just read this passage as though we a reading the Sunday Newspaper; no, we ought read this passage very slowly so that its impact stirs our whole being like it would have for the first writers and listeners to this Johannine Good News. Then we need to ponder, and ruminate its salient points, then we need to let go, and let the prayer pray in us, without seeking control of it…….that is a big ask! But it can be real prayer!

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One of the great scandals in history is the extent to which the Body of Christ has been so splintered. While a number of groups claim Christ as their shepherd, many deny the same right to those who do not walk in their way. But there is hope in the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel, where He declares that someday, there will be one fold and one shepherd. But this can happen only when we stress the need for unity … not necessarily conformity. What Jesus is saying is that we must listen and be open to others – Christians and non-Christians – just as we would welcome a guest in our home. There has always been a feeling by many Christian-Catholics over the centuries, that we are the best, and we are the only REAL church and all the others are good people, but secretly, not as good as us! Or when it comes to ‘changes’ in seeing our global village we vehemently resist and believe that our Religion is in solid concrete and no need for changes….well that kind of thinking is arrogant and far from the spirituality of Jesus which call us to be ‘gentle and humble of heart’. The breath of the Holy Spirit continues to embrace all in its way, but in order to listen to the spirit, we must be ‘open’ to the signs of the times and the responses which are urged within us to be Christ’s living body today……Yesterday has gone! Today is now! Let tomorrow be a time of surprises, a time of seeing the saving hand of God at work in us, in the people around us, and in this MISSION entrusted to us.

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In our Eucharistic Celebration that weekend, we pray that we may devote time to being attentive to the voice of our Good Shepherd, Christ the Lord, in prayer, through unexpected people and events … that we may put into action the stirrings of response from the Holy Spirit to be Christ’s living Word now and always.

Let us give thanks to the Lord for He is good, for His love has no end

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4th Sunday after Easter Year B, 2018. A Reflection from Fr.Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne – Australia. Safe with our Shepherd.

4th Sunday after Easter year A married couple

 

Mike and Yvonne, so this story goes, were 85 years old and had been married for sixty years. Though they were far from rich, they managed to get by because they carefully watched their pennies. Though not young, they were both in very good health, largely due to Yvonne’s insistence for the last decade on healthy foods and exercise. One day, their good health didn’t help when they went on a holiday and their plane crashed, sending them off to Heaven.

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They reached the pearly gates, and St. Peter escorted them inside. He took them to a beautiful mansion, furnished in gold and fine silks, with a fully stocked kitchen. A maid could be seen hanging up their favourite clothes in the dressing-room. They gasped in astonishment when Peter said, ‘Welcome to Heaven. This will be your home now.’

Mike asked Peter how much all this was going to cost. ‘Why, nothing,’ Peter replied, ‘remember, this is your reward in Heaven.’ Mike looked out the window and there he saw a championship golf course, finer and more beautiful than any built on Earth. ‘What are the greens fees?’ grumbled Mike. ‘This is heaven,’ Peter replied. ‘You can play for free, every day.’

Next they went to the clubhouse and saw the lavish buffet lunch. ‘Don’t even ask,’ said Peter to Mike. ‘This is Heaven, it is all free for you to enjoy.’ Mike looked around and nervously asked Yvonne ‘Well, where are the low fat and low cholesterol foods and the decaffeinated tea?’ ‘That’s the best part,’ Peter replied. ‘You can eat and drink as much as you like and you will never get fat or sick. This is Heaven!’

‘No gym for a work- out?’ asked Mike. ‘Not unless you want to,’ came the answer. ‘No testing my sugar or blood pressure or anything?’ ‘Never again!’ said Peter.

 

So Mike glared at Yvonne across the table and said, ‘You and your crummy Bran Flakes. We could have been here ten years ago!’

As time goes by, we hear more and more reports from people who have almost died, people, in fact, who have been ‘clinically dead’. In all the stories from those who have come back to life, we find very similar details. Thus they speak of leaving their bodies behind. They speak of going through something like a dark tunnel with a light at the far end. A light like the sun, though it neither blinds nor burns, a light which keeps growing brighter. As they move closer to the light, their whole life, like a short film, begins to flash before them. They see the good and the bad, the ugly and the beautiful.

Looking at their lives in those short flashes, they sense that the light before them is personal, is somebody rather than some thing. Somebody who views the film with them. Somebody who approves their generous and unselfish actions, but not their mean and selfish ones. Somebody, however, who understands and interprets all the components of their lives as a necessary learning process.

All say that the light – some call it Christ, some call it God, some call it light – is kind and protective, humorous and understanding, forgiving and fulfilling. When they come out of all this, they are changed people, better people, new people.

These reports of ‘near-death’ experiences are interesting, even fascinating and inspiring. Yet we do not really need them to know what will happen to us. We rely rather on the voice of Christ our Good Shepherd who speaks to us in today’s scripture readings. He communicates all that friends and followers of Jesus need to know about their destiny.

 

As the Good Shepherd puts it in the gospel he has ‘concern for his sheep’. So much so that he states not once but three times, that he ‘lays down his life for his sheep’. He is the one, as Peter comments in our First Reading, ‘whom God raised from the dead…’, and ‘the only one by [whose] name we can be saved’.

figure5.jpg Icon of Christ the Good Shepherd

We may be sure, then, that our risen Good Shepherd, will keep bringing us to green pastures and a magnificent banquet, and that the light of his love will keep shining on us and showing us the way to live. In fact, all who now and to the end listen to his voice and stay together in his sheepfold, will find themselves safe, renewed, changed and transformed in his company.

So we can and will declare with the strongest conviction and the most heartfelt hope, those words from our Creed: ‘I look for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. AMEN.’

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3rd Sunday of Easter, Year B, 2018. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney – Australia. ‘Fear not; be not afraid.’ kevin.w3@bigpond.com

It’s an extraordinary fact, but very understandable, that one of our basic attitudes towards God is one of fear. The first time the word ‘fear’ is mentioned in the Bible is when Adam and Eve sinned. We are told that ‘they hid, because they were afraid’. From then on, most contacts with God began with the words ‘Fear not; be not afraid.’ This was even said to Mary, as it was to the shepherds. It is reckoned that Jesus used this expression several dozen times throughout the gospels.

Today’s gospel speaks of the apostles being terribly frightened. This seems strange, as the reason for the fear is the one person who had always been their best friend.

In a way it’s sad to see Jesus pleading with his friends to believe him. He invites them to touch him, to give him something to eat, to examine his hands and his feet. Human nature is so fragile, and so changeable.

Let’s rest with the concept of ‘touch’! There are lots of instances in the Gospels where Jesus touches someone……this is a very important action because it is a very human way of communication. To speak and touch at the same time is a very connected form of relating. Look at the times when you have been respectively touched by someone else, this action seems to put the mind and memory into another gear. Its action has more chance of staying with us than just a kind word. In our own lives we use the phrase, ‘let’s keep in touch’ while you are away; meaning, let’s reinforce the closeness of our relationship through words in emails, text Messages and pics or even hand written post cards which reignite the memory of being ‘touched’.. Staying ‘in touch’ is what life is all about. In this post Resurrection appearance, we see Jesus inviting his friends to ‘touch’ him so that they can experience the reality that their friend and companion is now their Lord, and is with them and will continue to be with His Body, the Church always.

His apostles had known Jesus on a personal basis, and had felt at home in his company. This time, however, things were different. He had broken out of the constraints of the human body, and there must surely have been a sense of uniqueness about him that they had never seen before. It is very difficult for the human mind to grasp the concept of the utter transformation that takes place, when someone they have known and loved is so utterly transformed, and now has an aura of unearthliness about him. However, the fear is immediately changed into joy……a Transfiguration experience…….’it is wonderful for us to be here….let’s contain this experience by building three Tents, one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.’ How normal is that? When we have these experiences, we want to do the same!

We are told that, while they still doubted, they were filled with joy and wonder. Jesus spoke to them about the hopes and promises ingrained within Scripture about a time when God with gently intervene in our world by His Word, becoming one of us and how he (Jesus) was fulfilling them. While they still wondered, he commissioned them to continue the task he had begun. In the following of that line, which is not included in today’s gospel, he promises that he will send them the Holy Spirit, and they will have a new power within themselves, which will urge them to go out in loving boldness and proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand. The Risen Lord initiates the authority for this venture and He gives them the commission, which is to go out to all sinners proclaiming the Good News! ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who turn to me.’

Finally, in the Gospel for today, the Johannine community inserts a Eucharistic overtone in the text….namely, ‘……they offered him a piece of grilled fish and he took and ate before their eyes’. This Eucharistic insinuation is coupled with the next part that the Risen Lord …’opened their minds to understand the scriptures….’ The Gospel concludes by saying……’you are witnesses to this.’

Now, let’s get down to the reality of the ‘now’ and be reminded of a couple of very serious elements as followers of Jesus. Firstly, the Risen Lord comes to us in our daily life…..think back to those times when the circumstances that you might have been in was awkward, doubtful and lacking in hope! Within that situation we often feel deep within us a ‘stirring’ which frightens us and yet calms us. That is not the time to be looking to prove the existence of God! We don’t need too….we just know it; we know that the Lord is very near to us. We become changed, strengthened and the consequences all makes sense as seen through the lenses of Scripture, which the Lord gently unfolds before us. Our faith=insight, enables us to see the saving hand of God at work in us, and within us. As a result, we become witness to this experience of the Risen Lord……not just for ourselves but to share with others, through our ‘changed/transformed selves. It all makes sense and is real.

So let’s place ourselves among those disciples within today’s Gospel. Maybe our prayer is: ‘I believe, Lord, help my unbelief…Lord, by your cross and resurrection you have set us free…Lord, increase my faith, Lord increase my faith!’

FROM WORD TO THANKSGIVING…..taken from the Glenstal Bible Missal, Page 767.

We give thanks to God our Father, for when we break bread we recognise our Risen Lord, and we receive from him, with the forgiveness of our sins, the peace which he alone can give.

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Fr Kevin Walsh – Sydney Australia

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