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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.’

bgleesoncp@gmail.com

Brian Gleeson special photo

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4th Sunday of Lent year B, 2018. A Reflection by Fr Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne Australia. TELLING IT LIKE IT IS.

Begging for money

Paul O’Reilly, a Jesuit priest in England. recalls that when he was a seminarian on pastoral placement in a parish he was given a job called ‘Drinkers’ Duty’. Every morning about 8 o’clock, 20 to 30 men would come to the church to tell Paul how much alcohol they had drunk the previous day. Paul’s job was not to say ‘that’s good’ or ‘that’s bad’ but simply to write it down for the record. All sorts of men would turn up from poor hopeless drug addicts to rich and successful businessmen. Sometimes they would come very proudly and say ‘None! And that’s just two pints for the whole week.’ At other times one or more would come up looking very sheepish and ashamed and say ‘Er … eight cans, Brother!’

Nobody made them do this. They wanted to do it. They were all men who knew they had a problem with alcohol. They also knew what Jesus tells us today that ‘everybody who does wrong hates the light and avoids it, for fear their actions should be exposed; but those who live by the truth come out into the light, so that it may be plainly seen that what they do is done in God.’

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So those problem drinkers needed a place and a person to go to each day where they could feel safe enough to be honest about their drinking, to tell it like it is.

That, of course, is the deal with the sacrament called ‘Reconciliation’ or ‘Confession’. People who are not Catholics find it hard to understand. They ask, ‘Why can’t I just confess my sins to God? Why do I have to bother with a priest?’

The answer of course is that we can confess our sins to God. Nobody is stopping us. But we all know that we human beings are good at deceiving ourselves. It’s not just alcoholics. We all need a safe place and a person we trust, in order to fess up to both the bad things we have done and the good things we have failed to do. We need that because as Catholic Christians we want to live by the Truth, the Truth that sets us free, the Truth that comes to us in the words of Jesus saying through our priest ‘I absolve you from your sins’, which is to say ‘I am setting you free’.
Someone has remarked wisely that hearing those words is like being ‘hugged by God’! So, let’s make more use of this gift from Jesus Christ that has come to us through his Church, this very healing practice!

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Brian Gleeson

Bro Vicente CP with Fr Brian Gleeson CP

 

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3rd Sunday of Lent Year B, 2018. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh – Sydney Australia. ‘I thirst for you, O Lord’. kevin.w3@bigpond.com

Here in Australia we live in a land of extremes!!! Droughts, floods, cyclones, thundering surf, gentle breezes, blue skies and warm sunshine! A sun burnt country surrounded by jewel seas! The Holy Land in lots of ways is somewhat like our own. When one is thirsty, there is nothing more that matters…..’I want some water’! In the first reading today, we hear of God’s people grumbling, because they were thirsty, and I guess that even though they were experiencing liberation from slavery in Egypt, the consuming need to drink, engulfed all their thoughts and desires. The desire to be refreshed caused a haze within their corporate minds, which blurred their memory of the saving activity of a loving God among them.

READINGS: I have selected the alternative Readings for this Sunday, with its particular thread: The Water of life! Year A.

Exodus 17:3-7. Psalm 94. Romans 5:1-2;5-8.

John 4:5-42.

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In the midst of their questions and grumbling, God once again hears the cry and appeal from His people, and comes to their aid. The water gushing from the rock at Meribah was more than just a free drink! It had a far deeper spiritual significance; it was an outward sign of God’s life within his people, and enabling them to respond to Him in fidelity, and loving commitment. Moreover, the gushing water was a definite sign of God’s absolute never ending covenant love, with His people.

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This theme is taken up in today’s Gospel, where Jesus enters into a conversation with a Samaritan woman. Adding to the depth and meaning of this story, is the fact that Jews and Samaritans had a terrible dislike for each other, and it was improper for a Jew to speak to a Samaritan, and the same went for the Samaritans towards Jews. This means nothing to Jesus: he initiates a dialogue, which has far deeper implications than just the breaking with local customs! Through the discussion with the Samaritan woman, we see that Jesus is the fulfilment of the Law; the Torah, (the first five Books of the Bible) and he in fact is the in fleshed Word of God offering new life, and salvation for all. Let’s not miss the number of Husband’s that the Samaritan Woman had had; five! Jesus is the Bridegroom par excellence, and we are the Bride! In short, the Gospel Community who put together this extract today, were very keen to express underlying meanings in some of the expressions used. The Kingdom of God does not depend upon certain places or spaces of worship; but it is an inner conversion which opens one up to see in Jesus the saving hand of God at work. In short, the water from Jacob’s well reminds us of the bottomless reservoir of God’s love and life, offered to us and everyone all the time……but it is up to us to want it!

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The Sacrament of Baptism is the beginning step for us as we journey towards full incorporation into the body of Christ. The fact that we have candidates in our midst who are preparing for entrance into our community at Easter, is a reminder to all of us, that the life which our God offers us is not solely to quench our personal thirst for His love, but as the Lord’s Prayer reminds us, it is ‘Our Father’ to whom we pray, and that companionship which we share in and through the Eucharist, urges us in love to reach out to one another, as Jesus did to the Samaritan. It is a challenge to break through the social so called ‘correctness’ to know that God’s Household is for all! May this time of Lent invite us to recognize the Lord in those, who unexpectedly, may offer us the life giving waters of love and compassion. May we in turn be sensitively alert to welcome those who come and sit at the well with us in daily life, and may we realize, like the Samaritan woman, that we are not alone, our God never abandons us!

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I would like to include an Examination of Conscience which I have often used on the Third Sunday of Lent, because we are nearly half way through this season of Spiritual Training. Now, in this Reflection there are a number of women who come to the well…please note that the depositions that these women bring with them, are similar to what us blokes bring to the well. See what you think of this…. THE WOMEN AT THE WELL.

A woman named SAD-OF HEART met Jesus at the well. Sighing with relief she placed the burden of her leaden heart at his feet. “No one cares”, She cried to him. He turned her face to him and held it in his strong hands. He just loved her.

A woman named BURNED-OUT CASE found Jesus at the well. “I’m too tired to go on. No one really understands. I feel used up, nothing more to give. I want to quit, but I don’t know how” she sobbed as she held out the worn out pieces of her life, faded, frayed, and fragile. Jesus offered her his arm and said, “Come to me and I will refresh you and restore you to wholeness”.

A woman named ANGRY discovered Jesus at the well. “Why isn’t anyone willing to listen to me?” she shouted. “What do I do that turns away my chances of being heard? Must I be a first class story teller just to get a hearing?” Jesus took her anger as one receives a gift and said, “Speak to me. My heart is ready, my heart is ready.”

A woman named RESENTMENT approached Jesus at the well. Her face could not hide her feelings. “No matter how much I do, it never seems enough,” she complained. “I resent that my performance is measured against someone else’s accomplishments. I can only be who I am.” Laying his hand on her head, Jesus whispered into her ear: “you are my chosen, holy and beloved.”

A woman named WANTING-TO FALL-IN-LOVE-AGAIN sought Jesus at the well. The light in her eyes spoke the questions in her heart. “How can I fall in love all over again? What will it look like when I do and how will I know I have?” Radiant with joy, Jesus smiled at her and said, “if only you recognised God’s Gift…the desire to love is already loving…!”

A woman named NEEDING-FORGIVENESS came to Jesus at the well. Tears of repentance like gentle rain washed over her face and fell on his sandalled feet. “Forgive me, for I have sinned, and my sin is always before me. Do not cast me away from your presence”. Holding her to his heart, Jesus promised, “With great love I take you back, my love. I will never leave you and my covenant of peace shall not be shaken. As far as the east is from the west, so far have I cast your sins from you.”

A woman named WAITING-IN-STILLNESS sat with Jesus at the well. She looked at his face. She said nothing. She held her heart in readiness. ‘Give me your heart.” Jesus said, ‘I want to fill the emptiness. I want to mend the brokenness. I want to give it the shape of my own.”

A woman named CONFUSED-OF-HEART dragged her feet in the dust as she approached Jesus at the well. She couldn’t raise her eyes to him. “I don’t know what I want or how I feel. I have volcanoes and tidal waves inside me and I’m so afraid they will destroy me and those I care about.” Jesus called her to the rim of the well: “See how deep it is, probably so full. But we can only draw up one bucket at a time.” He dropped the bucket over the ledge, filled it a brought it to the top. “Take it slowly,” Jesus urged, “One bucket, one feeling at a time. The well of you is so deep, but I will help you draw yourself into light.”

A woman named APOSTLE raced to Jesus at the well. “Hurry,” she cried, “There’s so much to do! I’m busy, I’m tired, but come on, let’s get moving!” Jesus replied: “Let me stay with you awhile. You are bread for the world, but let me take you, bless you, break you open. Let ME give you to others…”

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3rd Sunday of Lent Year B, 2018. A Biblical Reflection from Fr.Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne Australia. REVERENCE FOR GOD

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We heard it said of Jesus in the gospel: ‘Zeal for your house will devour me.’ An Irish Jesuit priest, Paul O’Reilly, has told a story against himself about zeal and reverence for the house of God. When he was still a deacon, Paul was put in charge of the altar servers. He was a flop in the job. So they took it away from him and gave it to a zealous layman called Adrian.

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Now Adrian is one of those people who are naturally good with young people. He’s outgoing, cheerful, down-to-earth and easy to get along with. He liked the altar servers and they liked and respected him. Within a few weeks of his taking over, the number of servers had doubled, and they started turning up on time for practices. Most importantly their work on the altar was much improved. Everybody, including Paul, was very pleased that Adrian had taken over the job and was making such a big success of it.

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Then one day Paul happened to be in the church when Adrian caught two of the altar servers chewing gum in church. He went absolutely berserk. He shouted, he screamed, he yelled at them for what must have been ten minutes. And all through that time he kept saying one thing over and over again: ‘You are altar servers. You are here to reverence God in the church. You do not chew gum in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament.’

Paul thought this ticking off would be the end. Surely after that the altar servers would rebel. There would be deputations to the parish priest, and one big hullabaloo. And worst of all Paul was afraid that the job of training them would come back to him.

In fact, none of those things happened. By the very next day it became clear that the servers respected and followed Adrian more than ever. It made Paul stop and think. He reached this conclusion: – What the altar servers respected in their leader was that he was angry for the right reasons. He was not angry because they had done anything personal against him. He was angry for the Lord, for the reverence that is due to God‘s house. Zeal for God’s house had devoured him.

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The whole point of being an altar server is to bring reverence to the Mass, the reverence that is due to the greatness and goodness of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Mass is the way we Catholics fulfil the first three of the Ten Commandments which were presented in our First Reading tonight (today): –

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You will have no gods but me.
You will do nothing to dishonour my holy name.
You will keep holy the day of rest, my special day.

The reason we come to Mass every Sunday is not just to hear a homily. It is not simply out of a sense of duty, custom, or tradition. It is not merely to have the pleasure of meeting our friends and fellow parishioners. It is not only to receive Jesus our Saviour in Holy Communion. No, we come to Mass in the first place to give praise, honour and thanksgiving to God, from whom all blessings flow. And if we too have enough reverence, respect and love for God, then zeal for his house and for his interests will devour us too.

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But please, Paul concludes his story, let’s not take out our zeal for God and the reverence due to God on out altar servers. We need them as much as ever. Anyway, they’re doing the best they can! Don’t you agree?

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Bro Vicente CP with Fr Brian Gleeson CP

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2nd Sunday of Lent Year B. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh Sydney – Australia. LISTENING TO GOD! WE CAN’T GO WRONG! kevin.w3@bigpond.com

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READINGS: Genesis 22:1-2, 9-13, 15-18. Romans 8:31-34. Mark 9:2-10.

Many years ago when I was a little kid of about 10 years old we lived in what we call in Australia, a dead end street in Cammeray, Sydney. That had nothing to do with the people who lived in the street, but the end of our Street was the End. The street ended at the top of a small cliff. Now going back into the late 50’s and 60’s we did not have Computers, but we did have Television sets….yes, black and white ones. All the kids in the street knew each other, and played all sorts of games together after school, and at weekends……there was no play station! Our family was especially friendly with another Family across the road, and one of the older boys in the family had promised to take me to the Zoo on a particular Saturday. Maybe, he wanted to leave me in the Zoo, I’m not sure. But both families were really close friends. The night before our proposed trip to the Zoo, I could hardly sleep because I was so excited of what would happen the next day. My friend was supposed to come over to our place at 9.00am, and then we would get the 9.10am Bus to Neutral Bay. Then catch a Tram to the Zoo. For Sydneysiders….you can tell that it was about fifty years ago……. eh? Trams, if only we had them back again! Well, 9.00am came! I was waiting on the front Veranda of our House. 9.05 came and went, 9.10 came, and I saw the Bus go by, 9.15am, I could not understand why my friend had not shown up. Mum and Dad told me to wait till 9.30am, and then I could go over the road to see what was happening. I tell you, it took ages to get to 9.30! It was like watching and waiting for a kettle to boil. Then I was off! When I got to the front door of the House his Mum said that he was still asleep! I said, ASLEEEEEEEP! He promised me that he would take me to the Zoo today! For a little kid, like me that was a traumatic experience, because I had such trust in him, and it was built on friendship. That was the first time that I can remember that I was let down by someone who was my friend.

6th Sunday after Easter Year A nothing is impossible

The theme which runs through the three readings today is about fidelity, trust, obedience and absolute faithfulness. For starters, we know that God called Abraham to make the biggest sacrifice in his life, and Abraham obeyed God’s request. But let’s look at what obedience means here. It is much more than just doing the task of sacrificing his Son in response to an instruction; biblical obedience is listening not just with the intellect, but with body, mind and spirit. Obedience is total listening, and feeling the consequences of the invitation, as well as being aware of the pain within the response. In short we could say that biblical obedience is holistic listening to God. I think that we can even take this a bit further in understanding what this really means. So often when we read the Scriptures we can do it from an information point of view, in other words, getting the meaning of the story and analysing it, then saying, what implications does it have for me?. If we stay with that method, we can run the risk of staying on the surface of its import and invitation. Look at the water striders on a pond, they stand and walk on the water, but they can never get below the surface. We have the ability and gifts to go beneath the surface of the Scriptures, and be submerged into its words! For example, let’s take the story of Abraham being asked to prepare an Altar of Sacrifice for his Son Isaac. Within the activity of preparation, there are inarticulate groans and internal wrestling’s taking place within the person of Abraham. Can we hear them? Can we feel it? Can our ‘seeing’ of this event stir our faith? To make myself a bit clearer, because I get carried away with this, just imagine that you are going to my special Store in Australia….Bunning’s Hardware, or for our UK readers, it’s like going to Mica Hardware. I want to buy two 30 Litre bags of Potting Mix. When I look at the bags, my mind is already processing the effort that will be needed to put one 30 Litre Bag in the Trolley, let alone two. Then I brace myself to pick the bag up correctly so that I don’t do my back in….when I make the holistic response to pick up the bag, I often make an inarticulate groan….as I do the job, and put it in the Trolley. That to my way of thinking is a holistic approach to the complete task. I believe that in our faith-responses we make inarticulate groans, and in fact while at ‘prayer’ I am totally sure of it….let’s see what St. Paul has to say about this in relation to ‘prayer’. Romans 8:26-27…’ The spirit comes to the aid of our weakness. We do not even know how to pray, but through our inarticulate groans the Spirit Himself is pleading for us, and God who searches our inmost being knows what the Spirit means, because He pleads for God’s own people in God’s own way.’ Now how good is that? Now this at first glance might be a bit un nerving because we are aware that God’s knows really what’s going on inside us, but really isn’t that good? We don’t need to put on a face or a mask in order to present well when God asks something deep from us? Let’s have a look at Psalm: – Ps. 138

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The Response to the Psalm is: O Lord, you search me and you know me.

O where can I go from your spirit,
Or where can I flee from your face?
If I climb the Heavens, you are there.
If I lie in the grave, you are there. RESPONSE

If I take the wings of the dawn
And dwell at the sea’s furthest end,
Even there your hand would lead me,
Your right hand would hold me fast. RESPONSE

If I say: ‘Let the darkness hide me
And the light around me be night,’
Even darkness is not dark for you
And the night is as clear as the day. RESPONSE

O search me, God, and know my heart.
O test me and know my thoughts.
See that I follow not the wrong path
And lead me in the path of eternal life. RESPONSE

Notice that the Response to the Psalm is our community Twitter message to God: Just imagine if that message were on our lips, in our minds and hearts all day! What great food for thought for our inarticulate groans of prayer with God! This simple method or ‘way’ is the foundation for contemplative prayer. We don’t have to live in a Monastery or Convent to use this ‘way’ in conversation with the Lord. Let’s go back to the Twitter message in the Psalm; in rolling this antiphon around and around in our minds till we are saturated with it…..just PAUSE….and let the momentum of the Meditation launch you into silence….yes, that means saying nothing. I find that hard because my friends tell me that I have an opinion on everything….so as we were; Let go, and let the inarticulate groans within your spirit be nudged along by the Holy Spirit. This is an act of Faith! Just let go of your words and let the Spirit take over in nothingness. It might seem like a boring task, but we do PAUSE in silence many times in our day. In today’s Gospel which we will move onto very soon, after I have had another cup of Tea, there is a tremendous Twitter message from God: ‘This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.’

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In the second Reading St. Paul in his Letter to the Christian Community in Rome assures them, that God is totally faithful and would never leave them or forget them, using the example of the death and rising of Jesus as the father’s Son.

Let’s have a look at fidelity. The foundational building blocks of all relationships are trust and fidelity. Without this, there can be no certainty within relationships. We have all experienced in all kids on ways times when we have failed in fidelity and times when other have failed in it as well. However, just imagine if I had made up my mind after my friend forgot to take me to the Zoo that was it! No more, I will never trust anyone again! How stupid that would have been. That is where conversation with my Mum and Dad, and my sister helped me work through it, and build from it. The key to reconciliation is conversation. If we start talking about Reconciliation without the desire to meet others who are involved in it, then the healing process won’t happen; then it is a waste of time! St. Paul and the whole of the Scriptures time and time again tell us of God’s desire that we come back if we have strayed. The rest of it has to do with us, and working with Grace, so that we can make that return to God and others, possible and a reality.

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Now, let’s have a look at the Gospel. The opening sentence immediately tells us that something important is going to happen because of the ascent of a mountain. In the Bible, Mountains are places of revelation, they are places of epiphany that is unveiling of the sacred, and they are also places of deep and mystical conversations as well as ‘listening in silence.’ Look at what happened on the mountain in the first reading today? Look at what happened on Mt.Sinai; look at what happened on Mt Nebo in present day Jordan? Moses and his companions saw the breath taking expanse of ‘the promised land’. (The fulfilment of God’s promise)

timthumb dare to dream

Now, let’s look at more than Geography here….what happens in us when we ascend a mountain, either by foot, Camel, Motor bike or Car? It would seem that there can be a percolating excitement within. When we reach to the top and see the view, we often say that it is ‘breath-taking’. It takes our breath away! It causes us to gaze in holistic stillness; and we are then deeply tuned in to ‘listening’. I will never forget arriving at the summit of Mt.Sinai for day break, and the last thing that I wanted to do was talk! That’s a bit unusual for me. The words that were being said and echoed caused me to sit on the ground…I just could not stand up. A truly holy place, why? Because of the millions of people who have brought their ‘lived-faith’ to that place and this has given them insight into the mystery of conversation, initiated by the Lord God.

Mt Tabor

Now, let’s go to Mt.Tabor…the Holy Mountain. These days this mountain is a great launching place for Hang Gliders! However, the mystery and holiness of the place is well and truly there. As we keep in mind the ‘breath-taking’ experience in ascending a high mountain and beholding the view, let’s hang onto that experience as the mystery and message of the Transfiguration unfolds for the three Apostles who were privy to this moment.

Let’s look very closely at the text, for meanings that could escape us, if we either rush through it, or just treat the story at an academic level. Notice it was Jesus who initiated this hike up the mountain. Now notice that in their presence, that is within the close proximity of conversation Jesus is ‘changed’, Elijah and Moses appear within the proximity of conversation…..It does not say that Jesus retreated to a higher part of the mountain and then the Transfiguration took place. No! It happened right there in their midst. In the English translation of the Lectionary it then says that while Jesus and the two Old Testament Fathers were held in conversation with Jesus…..and notice that nothing about the contents of that conversation is made known to us, but it says the following. ‘Then Peter spoke to Jesus. Rabbi it is wonderful for us to be here etc.’ However in the Greek text the translation does not say that Peter spoke to Jesus, but rather Peter answered Jesus….Rabbi it is wonderful for us to be here etc. So therefore, it seems to me that the three apostles were in the midst of this experience. Peter understood this experience as a moment of the Apostles’ inclusion. In other words this moment was an invitation to Peter, who in speaking up for the group, puts into words their threefold response. ‘It is wonderful for us to be here etc.’

Shine

Now, I bet that you have had experiences of spiritual transfiguration within natural moments in your life time, which due to their intensity and fathomless depths have caused you to say so spontaneously…..’O Lord it is wonderful for us to be here’. Was it at the birth of your Baby? Was it when all seemed lost for you, and angel in human form was the saving hand of God for you? Was it when ‘love’ embraced you, and you wished deeply for that moment to be captured eternally? Was it when you experienced without a shadow of a doubt that God was with you in a particular moment? All the above, and many more experiences change us; we can be transfigured through them, and our faith is charged with new insight, and our whole being ‘listens’ anew.

images Annunciation

Notice that the three Apostles were frightened, sacred out of their wits during this experience? Look at Our Lady at the Annunciation, she too was frightened……the Angel noticing her fright, said to her ‘Do not be afraid, you have won God’s favour!’ Notice that during the frightful experience of the Apostles, a cloud covered them with shadow, and the words were heard…’ This beloved, my Son, listen to him.’ (In the Greek translation, my is used twice…a form of emphasis not a typo) Let’s stay with the cloud, the mist, the breath of God. In Genesis chapter 1 it says, ‘In the beginning there was darkness over the world, God’s Spirit hovered over that darkness, and life appeared…..’ God’s Spirit, God’s breath hovered over the darkness and it was the first cause of life’s initiation! At Pentecost, the Risen Lord breathed on the Apostles and turned their fright and timidity into loving boldness and outreach. In the Transfiguration we see that the Apostles were fortified by this experience, and that the early Church Catechetic (teaching) guaranteed that Jesus is the Christ! The promised one of the Old Testament. Listen to His Words, and act on them.

Gods Word th36RKBOOR

As I look back over this realhomilie it seems as though I have gone on and on….But that is the beauty and miracle of the Scriptures. God’s Word is evergreen, for all times and seasons, God’s Word is in a state of perpetual motion and its echo has been and will continue to be available to all. Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again!

 

Fr Kevin Walsh.  Sydney Australia

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2nd Sunday of Lent Year B, 2018. A Biblical Reflection by Fr Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne Australia. LISTEN TO JESUS.

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God says to us: “This is my Son, the beloved. Listen to him” (Mk 9:7).

A person giving a sermon or homily might sometimes wonder: -“How many people are really listening? Is anybody listening from start to finish? Will those listening now remember anything later on? In any case, can a homily ever start to change another person’s life?” I know of one particular instance where it definitely did.

Drugs

There’s this man called Mark, who lives a long way away. At 12, he was a bit wild at school. At 14, he was smoking and drinking. At 16, he started taking drugs, ¬mostly cannabis, speed and ecstasy. At 18, he moved on to heroin. At 19, he was injecting crack and heroin every day. At 22, his life seemed completely destroyed. He had no home, no family, and almost no possessions other than the clothes he stood up in. He had lost one leg when he was high and walked in front of a car. He had tried to kill himself three times – twice by taking drug overdoses, once by trying to hang himself. When he went to church, it was not to pray but to beg from the people there. He found that just after Mass people are generous.

But one Sunday, the gospel of the Transfiguration was read. In the homily he heard the priest say this:

4th Sunday of Lent Year A Brian 2

“The meaning of the Transfiguration is that God does not make junk. God created the world – and what God makes is good. And ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’”(Romans 8:31)

At the end of his homily, the priest made all the people stand up and say with conviction: “God made me; God doesn’t make junk.” So, along with all the rest, Mark felt compelled to get up and say: “God made me; God doesn’t make junk.”

But for many days later, those words burned into Mark’s heart: “God made me; God doesn’t make junk.” It became his prayer. It became his faith. It became his life.

2nd Sunday of Lent year B Family

With the courage of his new convictions behind him, Mark gave up drugs. He found a wife and he found a life. Not in a moment, of course, nor even in a few weeks, but over months and years he was transfigured and transformed. He took to heart the implications of the Transfiguration of Jesus: “God made me; God doesn’t make junk”, and “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

What about us? Where do we stand? Do we really want to be transfigured and transformed by listening to Jesus our Saviour – listening to his words, his teachings, his example, and his inspiration? Do we?

Transfiguration 4

Surely we do!

bgleesoncp@gmail.com

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