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GETTING READY FOR CHRISTMAS: 3RD SUNDAY OF ADVENT C Fr Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne Australia

One day a preacher on the Melbourne Yarra Bank tried to make real for his listeners, the message of John the Baptist today. ‘If you had two houses,’ he said, ‘you would give one of them away to the poor, wouldn’t you?’ ‘Oh, yes,’ said the man closest to him, I certainly would.’ The preacher went on: ‘And if you had two motor cars, you would keep one and give the other away, wouldn’t you?’ ‘Yes, of course’, said the same man. The preacher continued. ‘And if you had two shirts, you would give one away, wouldn’t you?’ ‘Just a minute,’ said the man this time, ‘I haven’t got two houses. I haven’t got two motor cars. But I have got two shirts. I’m not so sure now that I would give one away.’

This time the message hit home. Here was something personal, something pointed, something practical. Here was a real challenge that triggered off a genuine struggle to respond to the demands of the message.

Something like this is happening to the people who go out to the desert to listen to the preaching of John the Baptist. He implores them to turn away from sin and turn to God, and to express their sorrow for their sins and be forgiven by being washed in the waters of the Jordan River. He is offering them what they know deep down they really need – a brand new start, a brand new way of living. But they are not sure what it all entails.

The people in general and particular groups among them ask John the same question: ‘What must we do, then?’ They receive answers which boil down to three straight-forward rules of life: – 1. Share with others both food and clothing. 2. Be fair and just in your dealings with others, never cheating anyone. 3. Don’t bully others or push them around.

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The power of John’s preaching and personality makes a deep impression on the crowds. They begin to ask one another: ‘Can this be God’s chosen leader, the messiah?’ John puts them right: ‘I have washed you with water,’ he says, ‘as a sign that your hearts should be made clean. But someone stronger than I is on his way; I am not good enough even to bend down like a slave and untie his sandals. He will bring you the full power of God, the Holy Spirit. He’ll really change your mind, your heart, your attitudes, your behaviour, your whole self. He’ll be like a farmer at harvest when, wooden shovel in hand, he’s cleaning the grain on his threshing floor – storing the wheat in the barn and making a bonfire of the straw.’

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This message of John the Baptist hits the spot with us. We are living in the time of the first coming of the Messiah, his coming at Bethlehem. Right now we are preparing to celebrate his birth, and, as our Opening Prayer puts it today, to celebrate it with love and thanksgiving.

So, our time of preparation for the feast of Christmas is much more than getting in the goodies for eating and drinking and making merry on Christmas Day. It’s a time for heeding the message of John the Baptist on the meaning of God’s special coming into our lives in the person of His Son.

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So we are led to ask ourselves. 1. How widely and deeply will I share with other people this Christmas, especially with those who are the poorest and the most neglected in my community? 2. How fair and just am I going to be with the people in my life? 3. Will I stop once and for all putting others down, hurting their feelings, or bossing them around?

‘The Lord is very near,’ St Paul reminds us in the second Reading. So near in fact that the other Readings insist: ‘The Lord, the king of Israel, is in your midst’, and ‘among you is the great and Holy One of Israel’.

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The presence and the gift of Jesus Christ to us invite us to make a triple response. In the first place, God says to us in the Readings, ‘Shout for joy … shout aloud’, ‘cry out with joy and gladness’, ‘rejoice, exult with all your heart’, ‘be happy, always happy in the Lord’. In the second place, God asks us to change our lives, as John the Baptist has suggested. In the third place, God suggests that we pray: ‘There is no need to worry; but if there is anything you need, pray for it …’

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As we move now from the celebration of the Word of God to our meeting with Jesus in the bread and wine of the Eucharist, let us remember the triple response to the coming of Christ which God invites. 1. Let us rejoice, 2. let us ask God for whatever we need, and 3. let us open our hearts and lives to living as both John the Baptist and Jesus the Messiah have taught us to live.

bgleesoncp@gmail.com

Brian Gleeson

Bro Vicente CP with Fr Brian Gleeson CP

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1st Sunday of Advent Year C, 2018. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney Australia. COME, LORD JESUS! kevin.w3@bigpond.com

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Christmas is nearly here! Well, as far as the shops go, Christmas has been here for at least a month or two!

Advent does not exist for most people. Here in Australia, the time of Advent is usually celebrated with Shopping Sprees, Office Parties, summer heat with flies and mosquitoes, relaxing around Bar-B-Q’s, sharing a Beer or Wine and even Maxi Coke! Lots of our Houses are covered outside and inside with all kinds of coloured lights in the form of Reindeers, Santa Sleighs, and maybe one or two Angels; occasionally there are a few Nativity scenes in our shopping centres.

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Maranartha! Come, Lord Jesus! Advent is a fantastic time to sharpen our awareness to the Christ who continually comes to us. Advent is a time for us to STOP, LOOK AND LISTEN to God’s Kingdom present, but not yet fully realised. Advent is a time for us to check out the virtue of Hope! It is a time for us to re-evaluate our relationship with God, and each other. It is a time to be strengthened by the Gospel, and to facilitate the Spirit’s activity within us. It is a time so that we may discern with sharper spiritual vision, the signs and the times in which we live, as an invitation to renewed personal and community mission. Come, Lord Jesus!

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So that being the case, let’s dig into God’s Word for the First Sunday of Advent. The Prophet Jeremiah 33:14-16 speaks God’s Word to a people who needed uplifting. They needed that kind of Radar that our Armed Forces use these days at sea; over the horizon views, so that they can be just that little more prepared for what may be coming towards them. Jeremiah, empowered by God’s Word, invites his listeners to see outside themselves to a future time when God’s saving hand will be manifested in a particular way, which will be seen and praised by those who hunger and thirst for this Epiphany. The city will be called: the Lord our Integrity…Jeremiah 33:16. Are we talking about a City like Jerusalem or Bethlehem? Or could the City be within an itinerant group of people called the Anawim, “the Lord’s poor”…….Food for thought! And us!!!!!!!

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The Responsorial Psalm 24:4-5. 8-9 is the “community response” to the First Reading; hence its Antiphon is like a Text message for our hearts. To you O Lord, I lift up my soul! The verses of this wonderful Psalm flesh out why we can pray that Antiphon. At this stage you might like to scroll back to the Psalm. The first verse is full of imperatives! Verses two and three outline why the Psalmist/Us can ask the Lord God so directly in verse one. We need to prayerfully pray the Responsorial Psalms with the assistance of Music, or the community representative who is praying this Psalm on our behalf should take it slowly so that we can pray it, and not say it…..See the difference? Fortunately, while at home viewing this Blog on your Tablet, Smartphone or PC, you can take your time in savouring God’s Word.

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The Second Reading from St. Paul 3:12-4:2 is such a warm, uplifting and encouraging Pastoral Letter to the Christian Church/Community in Thessalonica. The content, tone and wording of this Letter is evergreen, and should well be a guide for all Christian Leaders for all times. Modern day Pastoral Letters sometimes read like cold, calculating Government Gazettes; many of them are not pastoral but clinical and legalistic, more appropriate for BHP Executives. The spirituality of the Gospel is being affirmed and encouraged by the Apostle, within the fledgling Church. This is truly an Advent extract from this Pauline Letter. See how the Second Reading builds on the First Reading, and then the Psalm? The savouring of God’s Word this Sunday will enable us to truly enter into the spirit of Advent. We MUST make time for it! Why not re visit these Readings during the week, and as you go through them, have in the back of your mind a good question like; “Lord, what are you saying to me through your Word, how can my life be changed in response to your Word.” As the so called ‘silly season’ (I absolutely hate that name) is thrust upon us everywhere we go, we have to make a special effort to enjoy, and be nourished by the Advent season.

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The Gospel Luke 21:25-28. 34-36 today develops the ” Advent” theme even more; the first paragraph calls us to be sensitive and astute as to what goes on around us. If there is one situation that scares the life out of all us, is when the ‘ earth moves under our feet’, or when other potential cataclysmic events rock the world, we begin to realise once more, how fragile we are, and how vulnerable we are in the face of natural disasters, and Bombings in war torn places, or horrible surprise Terrorist attacks on innocent people. In fact, it seems that the world’s population is ‘on edge’ all the time these days! These events can bring out the best/the divine elements within human nature, and it can bring out the worst in us as well! The state of ‘readiness’ and sensitivity which is brought to the surface as a by-product of natural disasters and war, ought to be a sign in us for something greater. We need to be on a spiritual ‘standby’ mode within us all the time. This ‘readiness’ for Mission and encountering Christ is the key to what Advent is all about! Advent puts us into auto focus, as we realise the need to be more alert in responding to Christ within our sisters and brothers, in His Word and Sacrament. The ‘Grace’ of this preparedness gives us the inner courage to live and actualise the internal integrity within our society, which is something like the Prophet Jeremiah was speaking about in the last line of the first reading today………‘the city will be called, ‘ the Lord our integrity’.

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The second paragraph of the Gospel tells us very clearly as to what can anesthetise our response to our Christian calling. So the first Sunday of the Liturgical Year in this season of Advent, has a very important place in our lives. If we jump to Christmas and dismiss Advent, it is a bit like skipping the Entre’ and Main course at Dinner, and going straight to the Sweets!

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Advent has more social opposition than Lent! December in the Southern Hemisphere is ‘party time’, ‘beach time’, and holidays. The weather is warm to hot, and there is a feeling of lethargy in the air! This is not a good combination, especially for Australians who are so ‘laid back’. Whereas for our Northern Hemisphere sisters and brothers, it is mostly cold, dark, wet and gloomy, punctuated by dazzling coloured lights in the Cities, Towns and Villages. In the country areas, the gathering around gorgeous fire places, preparing to eat Baked Ham and Turkey, Plum Puddings with Brandy Custard, and shopping for presents are on our minds. Christmas is right in your face from the moment you hop in your car to go somewhere. Advent is a subtle undercurrent which when visited, ingested, and savoured, has the ability to nudge us in see the world, and its people, as truly God’s people, with the latent Missionary adventure of bringing Heaven to Earth, as we pray in The Lord’s Prayer. Advent has the innate power to transform all of us into the living and walking city of ‘the Lord is our integrity ‘The season to of Advent is a time and opportunity for inner renewal, the discarding of numbing ways which can inhibit our feeling for, and response to, the Christ who comes to us all the time in Word, Sacrament and His People.

May we all be blessed during this time of Advent, and as we engage in savouring God’s Word, may the Spirit of God find a responsive heart in all of us.

Come, Lord Jesus!

kevin-3

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1st Sunday of Advent Year C 2018 A Reflection by Fr Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne Australia. THE CHALLENGE OF ADVENT – CHRISTMAS bgleesoncp@gmail.com

We people celebrate important events, such as marriages and birthdays, especially of family members and friends that we know, love and appreciate.

On this first Sunday of Advent we begin our countdown to Christmas, when we will be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world and our personal Saviour. So what are we meant to do, during our four weeks of preparation for Christmas? (I hope nobody is thinking ‘shop till we drop’, because that’s definitely not the reason for the season).

Advent is a time to stop, look and listen, a time to look back and look forward, a time to take stock of our lives, a time to see ourselves as part of the bigger picture of both the Church and the world, a time to appreciate where we have come from and where we are going, a time to remember that all through the days, months and years of our lives, our God has been with us and beside us, and has kept loving us, no matter what.

More specifically, Advent is a time to hear God speaking to us about ourselves and our record, our Church and our world. It’s a time for letting God remind us in our Advent Readings about becoming the kind of people we are meant to be and deep-down want to be – people of warm love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity and self-control. In responding to God’s Word, we will express sorrow for the ways we may have become pre-occupied and wrapped up in ourselves instead, for the ways we may have become distant from God and others, and for any person we may have hurt, neglected or rejected.

Advent is also a time for doing justice, i.e. in the biblical sense, it’s a time for recognising and promoting the dignity of others. In keeping with the Mission Statement of Jesus that he unrolled in the Synagogue of Nazareth, the time has arrived to use our personal, family and church resources to assist poor, ‘havenot’, malnourished and undernourished people, especially those close by.

We recognise too that this Advent-Christmas season does indeed suggest ‘let’s party’! So let’s show outwardly our inner joy for being alive, for having a safe roof over our heads; food on our tables; clothes on our backs; shoes on our feet; money in our wallets or purses; health and strength for our tasks and responsibilities; and for our shared concern to preserve God’s gift of our good and beautiful Earth in a harmonious balance. This Advent-Christmas season is a time for giving thanks for God’s gifts of music to our ears; for movies, books, computers, internet, radio, television, DVDs and videos which inform and entertain us. It’s a time for giving thanks for God’s gifts of family and friends for company, support, fun and laughter; for the treasure of the person of Jesus Christ in our church community to guide and challenge, comfort and encourage us; and for the gift of his Mother Mary as Mother of the Church, to inspire us by her total commitment and dedication, and to support us with her prayers. So, in short, Advent also means making time to count all our blessings and give thanks to the One ‘from whom all blessings flow’.

In more Christian times, Sunday as a day of rest, relaxation, reflection and prayer, was taken seriously. In our mad, materialist, profit-motive, consumerdriven society, in which having has become more important than being, and style and image more important than substance and sincerity, Sunday has become like any other day. The result is a far more hectic pace of life than any previous generation ever experienced, and more and more people with frazzled nerves, screaming inside them but unable to do anything about it, ‘Stop the world, I want to get off!’ The result of so much hyper-activity and so much overwork is too much pill-popping, too much drinking and too much drug-taking. The result, in short, is a deteriorating quality of life, with far less time just to be, to stop and think, to look and listen, and to contemplate e.g., the beauty of the ocean, a sunset, or the face of a child. The result is far less time to share and to care, and to savour and appreciate those best things in life that are free!

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This Advent-Christmas season is therefore a new gift from God, who is inviting us both as individuals and as a church community to deliberately let go, on the one hand, of all the clutter of useless and unnecessary activities and of things which are crushing or diminishing us, and, on the other hand, to let God re-make us, our values and priorities.

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This First Sunday of Advent is actually New Year’s Day of our new Church Year. It is therefore an opportunity, like no other, to deliberately take time out for better care of ourselves, so as to be more available and generous to others. It’s a precious opportunity to deliberately re-plenish our inner resources, reorganise our priorities and relationships, and to make time, more time than ever before, for family and friends, and for all those other people for whom our becoming new persons in this new Church Year, will make a difference.

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So, dear People of God, what are we going to do about it?

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ADVENT! An introduction by Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney Australia. COME LORD JESUS! kevin.w3@bigpond.com

WATCH! BE ALERT! BE ON STANDBY!

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Happy New Year! The Church’s calendar begins this weekend! The word “Advent” means “coming” and starts with a message similar to the theme of last week’s Mass. Be ready and watch for the coming of Jesus. However, it means a little more than just coming; it conveys to us expectancy within the person waiting. This can be understood in three ways.

First, we anticipate Christ’s advent on Christmas. We go beyond the materialism of the modern world by a focus on the real meaning of the feast: God enters human existence in a totally personal way.

Second, we look forward to Jesus’ arrival in our lives through the blossoming of our faith and the insight we have as pure ‘gift’ to see God’s saving work at hand in Christ within His Word, Sacrament and Community. Thus in a mystical way we bring his body into the world through our union with him also in the communion of saints.

Finally, we speculate on the end of this universe at the conclusion of time. The universe is not self-sustaining. Eventually it will terminate in some sort of catalclasmic explosion or implosion. Time is finite. It will reach a culmination either in a vast cataclysm or total dissolution. Then the real universe will begin in God.
So, welcome to Year C! During Advent and Lent, the three Readings in the Liturgy of the Word are linked….see if you can see and hear the links!

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31st Sunday year B, 2018. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney Australia. Speaking the truth in love = listening to the truth in humility. kevin.w3@bigpond.com https://realhomilies.wordpress.com/

All of us have a tremendous capacity to love! It is, and can be the most explosive force within our universe! Its power can build enduring vectors of relationships, which can radiate extraordinary light and warmth, which nurture the building blocks of solid and all-embracing community-life in Christ! Remember the great American actor Steve Reeve who was famous, as you know for his portrayal of Superman in the movies. However, as a result of a fall from a horse, he ended up in a wheelchair, paralyzed from the neck down. He said he got 100,000 letters of sympathy and support from people. This led him to ask: ‘Why does it take a tragedy before we show our appreciation for one another?’ Well that is the big question!! It is really unfortunately true!

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Over the last forty years, I have presided at hundreds of Funerals. Sometimes it takes the death of a loved one to bring about Family Reconciliations. Over the years I have heard many Eulogies, and I have often asked myself the question: “I wonder if the deceased person has heard even half of what was said about them in their life time?” I don’t really have an answer to that question of mine, but I would not be too surprised if it is true to some extent.

In the ‘high tech’ times in which we live, we are surrounded by wonderful systems of communication; yet are we able to have more time for each other, love for each other, and accept each other’s differences? Again when there is a tragedy anywhere in the world, within second’s outpourings of grief and extraordinary stories appear on Face book! However, the social media can also be the vehicle for evil and blackmail, using the iPhone or Tablet as a coward’s pulpit!

So often when we go to the shops or professional services we are forced to take a number, and join the never ending queue, or hear the words on the ‘phone, ’ Your call is important to us, you have progressed in the queue’ please hold on! Unfortunately we are experiencing more than usual calls. Approximate waiting time is 45 minutes! For what? Then in frustration, you might hang up! In your mind you are saying to yourself, “all I want to do is speak to someone…not a robot”

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The twofold commandment to love God, and our neighbours, which we hear from the lips of Jesus in this weekend’s Gospel, ( Mark 12:28-34) echo the very same words found in the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy 6:4., and in Leviticus 19:18. Yet, this twofold commandment was almost smothered within the 613 commandments of the Jewish ‘law’!! At this point I think we need to go back to the Old Testament reading and reflect upon it very deeply.

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Notice that in the pronouncement of the commandment there is Invitatory to LISTEN! Then built on this listening is a sense of urgency to implement it. The icon or image where the implications of the great commandment reside is in the heart! It seems that we could safely say that the overall icon or image displayed throughout the Scriptures is the heart! Then the total confirmation of this image is the Cross with its base deeply embedded within the heart. Let’s explore this for a few moments so that its impact can be appreciated.

In all civilizations of the world, the heart has a dominant place. Being the central organ in the body, the heart is the centre of ‘Life’; its functions enable the entire body to ‘Live’. The heart has been and still is the main symbol for ‘Love.’ That in itself is very telling….without love, nothing works! Nothing is sustained, nothing develops. A heartless person is someone who is devoid of human feelings, is hardened to the plight of the ‘suffering’ in this world, and has lost the sense of compassion. Unfortunately in our world it seems that the heartless acts perpetrated by people get the headlines, inherit the ‘breaking news’ slots in the media, and tend to dominate Thriller Novels and late night Movies. So, does that mean that hard heartedness is on the front line of human advancement? I believe that the short answer is no! The countless millions of heartfelt people far outweigh its opposite. People with big hearts, don’t go looking for publicity, people who are awash with love don’t make the headlines on digital media or Television News time. Occasionally, a short segment of true love is shown on Current Affairs Program’s as a kind of a Postscript or appendix, just to give a little reminder that the world’s people are not all bad…………..

I think that we need to dwell on the imperative given in the Old Testament Reading of today, (Deuteronomy 6:2-6) when it says: ‘LISTEN ISRAEL’ it’s more than saying, ‘Pay attention!’ It means, Children of El…Meaning children of God listen with body, mind and spirit….’holistic listening’……which is really Biblical Obedience! This is a far more positive and embracing concept of Obedience, then leaving it just with the following of Rules (well trained Dogs can do that)…or quoting Rules. So, in terms of loving, how does Biblical obedience come in to the full picture of loving? It would seem that according to the Scriptures: Listening to the truth in humility, is the precursor for us to truly love as God loves. Humility here is more like ‘poverty of spirit’ which is that constant hunger and thirst for hearing God’s Word and digesting it. It can be a very arrogant statement to say we speak the truth in love! Unless it is grounded in humility, it’s just window dressing.

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Finally, in an attempt to answer the big question: ‘Why does it take a tragedy to happen before we show our appreciation for one another?’ We so often leave it too late to love, and then we are full of regrets. We wait until it is too late to tell or show others that we love them. We often leave it too late to mend a quarrel, too late to enjoy health or the gift of our children or our parents. It seems that if we are going to be on time, we need to be listening to God while our hearts are being touched, and that we in turn respond in the ‘now’ not maybe, and then the words of Jesus to the scribe in today’s Gospel are then spoken to us: ‘You are not far from the kingdom of God’.

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28th Sunday Year B 2018. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh Sydney Australia. Fruit of Biblical Wisdom: SEE, JUDGE & ACT! kevin.w3@bigpond.com

Today’s Gospel gives us Jesus’ teaching on the dangers of attachment to riches, and he speaks about the rewards awaiting those who put him and his message before their earthly ambitions, of building up their wealth on earth.

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The first obvious thing in today’s gospel is that the young man seemed to be a very good person. He was most respectful to Jesus, and he was honest in his search for eternal life. He had kept all the commandments since his youth, and Jesus looked on him with love. To all appearances, he was an ideal person. Yet, without condemning, Jesus just had to show him something about himself of which he may have been very unaware. He was too dependent upon his wealth, and therefore without knowing it, he was not truly free! Jesus invited him to freedom, but the cost was too much for him. So, what did the young man lack in his life seeing that he had seemingly led a pretty good life? The answer is in the first reading today. So, let’s have a look at it. Wisdom 7:7-11

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The author of this Old Testament Reading speaks about an interior value that supersedes a fat wallet, and millions of $$$$’s in the Bank Account. Notice that it is a feminine characteristic of God…..WISDOM. Well, what does Biblical Wisdom mean? Firstly it is a Spirit filled Gift which we need to ask for….Wisdom is somewhat like a nice Red Wine….it matures with age. However, it needs good intentions from the one who wishes to acquire it. As Biblical Wisdom matures, it enable us to discern what is of lasting value, what is of temporary value and what is rubbish! In fact, according to the Scriptures, God-given-Wisdom is the most valuable spiritual possession one can have in this life. If it becomes part of our bone marrow, Wisdom will guide us, challenge us and strengthen us. In order to engage the Gift of Wisdom, a simple rule of thumb can help us….SEE, JUDGE AND ACT! This motto was the core of a Youth Movement which I belonged too as a teenager, and I have never forgotten it.

The response to the Psalm 89:12-17 Fill us with your love, O Lord and we shall sing for joy. The Prayer sentiments in this Psalm are a great community response to the first Reading…..if we took on board the prayer in this psalm…..our only response would be: – Fill us with your love, O Lord and we shall sing for joy.

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Now, let’s hang on to the SEE, JUDGE AND ACT trio; you might find it handy as well. Let’s apply it to the young man in the Gospel story today. Mark 10:17-30. Let’s ask the obvious question: Why did he go away from Jesus sad? Most probably because he lacked Wisdom to discern the all-embracing gift that Jesus was offering him. He couldn’t see it! So Wisdom might have a great deal of meaning when it comes to seeing someone, who is the saving hand of God at work in Jesus. It could well be said to be the 1st cousin of faith! Food for Thought! So let’s get a balance in Our Lord’s view on wealth.

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There is nothing wrong with wealth, or with being wealthy. Some of the world’s greatest people, who have given much of themselves to others, have been very wealthy people. So it’s all about our attitude and inner secret attachment or detachment that matters, which gives us the freedom to embrace the Gospel fully, or due to enslavement to riches we can walk away sad!

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Well what kind of poverty is Jesus speaking about when he says that we should have a sense of detachment from things in order to be truly free? The answer is ‘poverty of spirit’ which is a spiritual gift. It is that genuine thirst for God and a hunger to seek God, and in living that spirit, our attitude towards material things and people take on a new meaning. Poverty of spirit enables us to be open minded to what God asks of us. It flavours our life so much that we are deeply appreciative of our inner gifts, and can tune into the richness within other people without being jealous or envious of them. Poverty of spirit is an inner truth which sets us free to use the gifts that our world provides with a sense of appreciation and moving on, and not wanting to cling on to what we have got as a source of true identity and self-esteem. After all, when it is all said and done, a burial shroud has no pockets! Something to think about! When I was clothed in the Passionist Habit in 1968, we had no pockets because it was a black burial shroud! However, very inconvenient what you felt a sneeze coming on and one could not get to the pockets in our trousers under the habit to get a handkerchief, or hanky as we used to call them.
We give thanks to God who alone is good, for his Son, Jesus Christ. By handing over his body and blood for us, Jesus gives us everything; and turning on us his look of love, he says: ‘Do this in memory of me.’

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28th Sunday Year B, 2018. A Reflection on the Readings from Fr Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne Australia. RICHES GETTING IN THE ROAD. bgleesoncp@gmail.com

A questionnaire was once distributed to a class of high school students. It asked: ‘What would you like to be?’ Two thirds answered: ‘A celebrity!’ Not an answer Jesus would have given!

Mark, today’s gospel storyteller, tells us that Jesus is setting out on a journey, when this young man – he is not named – comes running up to him. All enthusiastic, he asks Jesus what he must do to make the most of his life and time on earth. What he is wanting is a greater closeness to God and a greater sense of fulfilment. It’s true he has already been walking the right path for any good young Jewish man. He hasn’t killed anyone, cheated anyone, or robbed anyone. He hasn’t fooled around with another man’s wife. He has always shown his parents love and respect. But right now this doesn’t seem enough to feel completely at home with God and completely at peace with himself. There must be more that he can be, and there must be more that he can do. ‘What is it?’ he asks Jesus.

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Jesus takes a shine to this rich young business man for his evident honesty, sincerity and good will. But Jesus wants to free him from his addiction to possessions and to help him share more with others. Looking him straight in the eye Jesus puts to him one massive challenge: ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’

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Let’s hear Jesus saying that to us 21st century people. What would we think? What would we feel? What would we do? Let’s hear Jesus, then, asking any one of us to give up every single thing we value and treasure. My family! My friends! My home! My garden! My kitchen with its new cupboards and appliances! My air conditioner! My computer! My smart TV! My smart phone! My IPod! My iPad! My digital camera! My swimming pool! My Jacuzzi! My secure job and pay packet! My superannuation! My pension! My gym subscription! My holidays! My concerts! My books! My movies, my videos, my CDs and DVDs! My restaurant meals! My motor car! My football! My cricket! My tennis! My squash! My basketball! My health insurance! Just imagine Jesus asking us to give up just about every possession, every pursuit, and every hobby we have that gives meaning to our lives and makes life worth living!

3rd Sunday after Easter Year A decisions

And all for what? To keep walking with Jesus along those dusty roads of Palestine? Not being sure of having a roof over my head on any night you care to name! Never being sure of where, when or whether my next meal will be coming! Being exposed to the jeers and sneers of the enemies of Jesus! Travelling light all right, unbelievably light!

If, then, like that rich young man we did meet Jesus on his journey and he were to look steadily at any one of us and say: ‘Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor . . . then come, follow me,’ it would be very understandable, perhaps even predictable, that our jaws too would drop, and we too would walk away sad, sad because we would probably be thinking and feeling: ‘Jesus is asking too much of me. The cost is too great. It’s beyond me. It’s unreal. I can’t do it.’

13th Sunday of Year A Pope John Paul and Mother Teresa 2

Jesus, in fact, knows that what he asked of that young man is quite beyond the great majority of human beings. ‘For mortals,’ he comments, ‘it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’ He is speaking, surely, of the special grace of God, and of the power of that grace given to particular individuals, who all through history have literally left everything to follow and imitate Jesus. St Francis of Assisi is a striking example. In 1206 Jesus crucified spoke to him three times from the crucifix in the church of San Damiano. ‘Go, repair my church,’ Jesus said. (He was speaking of his church community). So at the age of 25 Francis completely renounced his inheritance, stripped himself of all his fine clothes and all his possessions, and consecrated himself totally to God. From that day he began to live the teachings of Jesus as literally as possible. He put all his trust in God as his one and only source of security.
The amazing thing is that from that day on Francis found more joy in living than in the entire first twenty-five years of life. It can be done, then, but not by everyone.

Where does the gospel story leave you and me? Right now we can’t pack up the bare necessities and hit the road. For most of us that would even be irresponsible. But let our gospel remind us that we can let our lives get too cluttered and too complicated by too much stuff and too much attachment to what we have. It’s not that possessions are bad in themselves. But they can become a terrible hindrance if they start to possess us and block our minds and hearts from what matters most – surely our freedom to be loving persons to family and friends, but also to those poor people not far away without even the basic necessities of life. What matters most of all is our relationship with Jesus. He was calling that young man of the story into his company. He keeps calling us too to share his company – to spend time with him and to share our lives with him. Let’s do just that, then, in the rest of our Eucharist together today!

Brian Gleeson special photo

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