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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?

bgleesoncp@gmail.com

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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)

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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.’

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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.

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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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Four thoughts on Lent With Saint Paul of the Cross…..shared by Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney – Australia

Four thoughts on Lent With Saint Paul of the Cross…..shared by Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney – Australia

If St. Paul of the Cross–Paul Danei, founder of the Passionists–were to accompany you through Lent I’m sure he would be with you as you are and the world you live in as it is. He was never afraid of darkness and dark places, so you may find him a helpful spiritual guide. He trusted in Jesus Christ and his cross, ‘the wisdom and power of God;’ I’m sure he will bring some of that wisdom to you.

“May it be the desire of our hearts to know Jesus in a greater way during these 40 days
of lent.”

“Remain crucified with Jesus Christ, embracing every occasion to suffer for love of God with patience, with silence, and without ever justifying yourself, being resentful, or complaining.”

“I tell you that the life of men and women servants of God should be a continual Lent, that is, a continual exercise of mortification, internal and external. So distrusting yourself and depending much upon God, make your continuous Lent by always denying your will, being subject in exact obedience in the things most difficult and bitter to your self-love.”

“Build an oratory within yourself, and there have Jesus on the altar of your heart. Speak to Him often while you are doing your work. Speak to Him of His holy love, of His holy sufferings and of the sorrows of most holy Mary.”

This meditation comes originally from the Passionist Provincial Office in Sydney Australia. Thank you. Fr Kevin Walsh

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6th Sunday of Ordinary time Year B, 2018. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney Australia. ‘Lord, if you want to, you can make me clean.’

6th Sunday of Ordinary time Year B, 2018. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney Australia. ‘Lord, if you want to, you can make me clean.’

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In today’s gospel, we have Jesus healing a leper. It is an extraordinary prayer of simple faith and, in healing him; Jesus touched him, which was an extraordinary expression of love, and something that, incidentally, was totally against the law!

Let’s have a closer look at this evergreen story, because it has direct implications for us today.

The man had leprosy. What was he to do? In this case, he went straight to Jesus, with a very simple uncomplicated prayer. ‘Lord, if you want to, you can make me clean.’ No long speeches, no promises about a reformed lifestyle, and no pronouncement to Jesus of unworthiness. It was one of those precious moments of grace, when the truth was evident at that moment. The man was powerless, and he saw with the eyes of growing faith, that the healing hand of God was in Jesus. This was the basis for the miracle, as it is for all miracles in the Scriptures, and in our own lives.

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Notice that Jesus touched him. It’s almost impossible for us to appreciate what that meant. I think that Fr.Varillon in his Book titled:- La parole est mon Royaume, ( Paris: Centurion, 1986) 69-70 delves into the depth of this action and the profound meaning of Our Lord’s compassion for this man, and for us, ‘Jesus’ compassion is not skin-deep; it is an upheaval of the depths of his being. There is no true compassion without passion: those who are compassionate really suffer in their own persons. Compassion is a Communion in suffering. It is impossible for the Father to remain impassive when the children suffer – and among them the eternal Son made a human being. The Father’s suffering is a great mystery, and when we want to speak about it, we stammer miserably. However, it is urgent to reject from our mind the idea that the Father, because of the perfection of his nature, looks from afar on human suffering without himself being painfully involved and wounded…… The cure of the Leper orients my meditation in this direction. I cannot believe that Jesus does not suffer as much as the poor sick man and that the Father does not suffer as much as the Son.’ Lepers were outcasts and untouchable. With the medical science at our fingertips, most of the sores, blemishes or spots were not Leprosy. Nowadays Calamine Lotion, or Savlon or some other cream would bring about healing. But there was something else within the corporate mind of our ancestors in faith, which brought back a terrible memory, and went right back to the time when the Hebrew people were freed from slavery in Egypt. One of the ten Plagues consisted of terrible and unsightly skin boils, so that was generally in the mind of our ancestors in faith. It was seen as a punishment. Now, notice that Jesus stretched out his hand within the moment of healing……this was seen by the early Christian community and for us today as a Sacrament action….the laying on of hands….the sign of the empowerment of the Holy Spirit. However, getting back to the miracle, to touch a leper made the other person unclean and untouchable as well. It would be absolutely unthinkable for a religious Jew to come next to or even near a leper, much less touch one. The law was totally lacking love and compassion when it came to the obligations of cleanliness that it imposed on society at that time. There is no doubt that Jesus saw something totally different from everyone else when he looked at the leper, and he was urged by the Holy Spirit to reach out to this person who lived on the fringe of society, within a lonely world which the law imposed on such people. Jesus broke that law, and enabled him to be free!

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The Gospel story causes us to pause in more ways than one: Who are the Lepers in our society today? How do we respond or react to them? Are some of our attitudes a bit like the prescriptions in the first reading? This certainly is food for thought for me, and maybe for you too. Perhaps it might be a good idea to really PAUSE at this point of the realhomilie and reflect upon this….then quietly move onto the next section

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‘Lord, if you want to, you can make ME clean.’ What a simple prayer! Jesus’ answer was instant ‘Of course I want to’. That is true right here, right now. ‘Lord, I know that you want to heal ME, to forgive ME, to free ME.’ I ask that you do that right now. Prayer is really easy if we keep it simple. The facts are very clear, and the facts are friendly. In the sight of God, I am who I am, and Jesus is who he is. When I meet Jesus, and understand my place before Him, miracles can be expected. If I were to pause for a few minutes right now, what would my prayer be?

OUR FAMILY PRAYER TIME………

Leader: We prayerfully stretch out our hearts and hands to the Lord who stretched out his hand to touch and heal a leper.
For our Holy Father the Pope and for all leader-servants of the Church that they stretch out their hearts and hands to heal discrimination and injustice, we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
For our civic leaders that they stretch out their hearts and hands to help the poor, the homeless, the hungry and the victims of war, we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
For all of us here today, that we stretch out our hearts and hands to help those who need our spiritual and material assistance, we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
For the people of this faith community that we stretch out our hearts and hands and invite fallen-away Catholics to return to the healing home of the Church we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
For those who care for the ill, the elderly, and the dying, that they continue to stretch out their hearts and hands to heal and comfort their patients, we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
For all who have died, including N. and N., that they be welcomed to glory and embraced by the stretched-out heart and hands of our loving God, we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
Let’s think back over the past week, and what we have seen on the T.V News, Breaking News on our Mobile Phones and iPad….who are some of the people in our Global village or need our prayers? You might like to share some of these…………., we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.

Leader: Merciful, loving God, we ask you to grant these prayers we make through Christ our Lord. Amen.

kevin.w3@bigpond.com

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6th Sunday in Ordinary time year B, 2018. A Reflection from FR Brian Gleeeson, CP, Melbourne Australia. LEPERS IN OUR LIVES:

6th Sunday in Ordinary time year B, 2018. A Reflection from FR Brian Gleeeson, CP, Melbourne Australia. LEPERS IN OUR LIVES:

Shine

I guess some of you have seen the movie ‘Shine’ starring Geoffrey Rush. It tells the amazing story of the successful concert pianist, David Helfgott. Early on, even as he improves as a piano-player, he falls into a serious mental illness and starts to disintegrate as a person. He is suffering from manic depression. His moods keep swinging from the bright heights of elation, joy and excitement to the black depths of sadness, loneliness and despair. Very soon he loses his job, his home, his family, and is placed in a mental hospital. His psychiatrist even bans him from playing the piano. He ends up feeling acute pain, the pain of feeling worthless, hopeless, rejected and isolated. He is suffering all the symptoms of a social leper.

One day a woman named Gillian comes to visit one of the other patients at the hospital. Having been a long-time fan of his music, she sees David mooching around and recognises him. She says in the movie, ‘at once I knew what the rest of my life would be about’. She takes him into her home, looks after him, and takes on the responsibility for his recovery. Bit by bit he gets better, and with the help of medicine, he is able to control his mood swings. Most importantly to them both he returns to playing the piano. Soon he is on the concert platform again, and his performances to exuberant and enthusiastic audiences all over the world are a continuing personal triumph.

Of course ‘Shine’ is only a film. But its story is true. It really happened. It really happened through the providence of God and the love of a good woman. It’s a story too that is still happening because David Helfgott continues to enchant concert audiences. It will happen again for instance on April 28th, when he performs at the Melbourne Recital Centre.

Jesus healing a deaf manth

That story is an extension of the message of Jesus in the Word of God today, which is about accepting and welcoming the broken, the despised, the rejected, the odd bods, the misfits, and the outcasts into our company and community, and about offering them help and healing by our openness and generosity. In fact Jesus challenges us to go out of our way to make contact with outcasts in the way that he put himself out to befriend that poor leper of our gospel story.
As a leper, the man was barred from going to the temple. He was not allowed to associate with others in any way. He was not allowed to even see his family or friends. If anyone came anywhere close he had to warn them by shouting ‘Unclean!’ ‘Unclean!’

Since today we don’t usually run into anyone with physical leprosy, we might identify at least some of those who are often treated as social lepers in society. Who might they include? Let me suggest the following: – Persons with AIDS; alcoholics; drug addicts; neurotics; psychotics; the very fat; the odd dressers; Gays and Lesbians; the handicapped; and even the homeless. At times the outcasts of society include persons with dementia; teenagers; asylum-seekers and refugees; Immigrants; those who speak different languages; and believe it or not, sometimes even the elderly.

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We can work out who we would consider outcasts by asking ourselves whom do we regard as not our kind of people. Whom would we avoid? Whom would we shun? Whom would we not want to be seen with or mix with? Whom would we leave off our Invitations to parties?

By contrast, it was said of Jesus, the great mixer with all kinds of people, high and low, rich and poor, successful or so-called ‘losers’, influential or ordinary: ‘This man welcomes outcasts and [even] eats with them’. His care, his kindness, his welcome, his compassion, his generosity and his healing-touch towards outsiders come through loudly and clearly in all the details of today’s story of his meeting with the leper. He not only healed the man of his hideous and embarrassing skin disease, but he also healed him of his social isolation by bringing him back to his friends, family and community.

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Today Jesus is challenging me to rethink and alter my attitudes, my judgments, and my behaviour, towards all kinds of people who are different from me. What about you? Do you find him challenging you as well? How might Jesus be challenging both you and me? Let’s think about that for a minute or two at least!

bgleesoncp@gmail.com

Brian Gleeson special photo

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5th Sunday in Ordinary time Year B, 2018. A Biblical Reflection on the Readings from Fr Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne Australia JESUS SMASHES THE CHAINS OF MISERY:

 JESUS SMASHES THE CHAINS OF MISERY:

On his way to his office each morning, a married deacon drops in to the same café for a cup of coffee. He is always served by the same waitress. She is a bright and breezy person who always adds to her ‘Good Morning’ greeting the words ‘And how are you today?’ in return the deacon always asks the waitress: ‘And how are you?’ One morning not so long ago she answered: ‘OK, I suppose, but somehow I’m not living life to the full, even though I have the best husband in the world and a beautiful new baby.’

That young woman was indicating mild disappointment and dissatisfaction with her life. There was something missing, but she could not name just what it was. But her mild restlessness was nothing to the dissatisfaction that in our First Reading today poor old Job is feeling. The bottom has dropped out of his world, and his friends are no help at all. They keep teasing and taunting him. So he finds himself in a state of acute depression, and even thinks he’d be better off dead.

Job 1

Probably we all know people who are longing and craving for fulfilment in their lives, but who remain bundles of misery. Their conversations are all about ‘poor me’. Perhaps, at least sometimes, we ourselves feel so down and depressed that we come close to despair, and even feel we have nothing left to live for.

It’s clear from the gospel that Jesus felt deeply for people whose lives were out of whack with their hopes, dreams, aspirations and expectations, and that he reached out to them whenever, wherever, and however he could. To break their chains of misery and give them meaning, hope and support was his life project, as he said: ‘I have come that they may have life and have it to the full’ (Jn 10:10).

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Jesus himself must have been feeling tired and even exhausted after taking part in the evening service at the synagogue in Capernaum that day, then curing Peter’s mother-in-law from a fever, and going on to heal the many sick and troubled persons crowding round the front door of Peter’s house. Yet the very next morning he gets up before sunrise and leaves the house for an isolated spot where he can be alone with God in order to renew his strength and commitment in prayer. But even there Peter and his band of brothers track him down, and beg him to go back to the house. Simply because still more people have arrived and are clamouring for his help!

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Jesus knew, though, that it was impossible to help and heal every needy person. Yet it must have saddened and troubled him to think that whenever he moved on, as move on he must, he would be leaving some persons behind, who would still be feeling as miserable as old Job. He would console himself with the thought that he would keep doing whatever he could for any needy person who came his way. He would keep telling them of God’s ‘amazing grace’, i.e. of God’s awesome and unconditional love for them. But as well as telling them in powerful and challenging words about God’s strong and constant love for them, he would keep showing them that love. BUT HOW? By his interest in, and attention to every troubled person pouring out their hearts in sobs and tears! By accepting them without any condemnation, by forgiving and encouraging them, and as much as he could by removing the source of their misery!

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Sometimes he set them free from their physical ailments and disabilities. Often he delivered them from their personal ‘demons’ – their feelings of restlessness, worthlessness, failure, guilt and shame. Or from their ‘demons’ of bad memories of the evil and ugly things they had done, or of the bad and ugly things that had been done to them. He would do all he could to put them back together again and to help them to start living life as fully as they longed to do.
Our hope too is in the power and compassion of Jesus for us. He is alive in our midst all through our prayer together today. He is our way. Leave him and we may well get lost. He is our truth. Ignore him and his teachings and we may mess up our lives. He is our life. Turn our backs on him, and our spirits, minds and hearts, might just shrivel up and die.

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But perhaps we are afraid that we have let our years crackle and go up in smoke, and have for so long left him out of our lives that it’s just no use coming back to him. But surely if we cannot bring goodness to him, we can at least bring him our mistakes, our failures and our sins. And surely too we can bring him our trust, our renewed trust in him, not only as the Saviour of the world, but as our very own personal Saviour, who is still and forever our way, our truth, and our life! Surely we can!

Brian Gleeson special photo

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Passionist logo in glass thKDM7CEFT

 

Holy Family of Nazareth. Year B. A Reflection by Fr Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne Australia.

 

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In the week before Christmas a little boy who lives near a church had a part in his school’s Nativity play. It wasn’t a big part – in fact it was just one line: ‘Let the crooked be made straight.’ But it seems that he put more work into his one line then any actor before or since. At the performance itself he stood up, and with a big smile on his face delivered his line perfectly. At the end, at the back of the church-hall, his parish priest asked him how he had found it. He answered proudly: ‘I did my part good.’

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That, I think, is what Simeon and Anna are saying to us in today’s gospel. They have only small parts to play in the story of salvation. But they played them well, as well as they could. So Simeon can say: ‘Now Master, you can let your servant go in peace … because my eyes have seen the salvation which you have prepared for all the nations to see …’

Simeon, then, is thanking God for this special favour: At the very end of his life, God is letting him meet Jesus the Messiah, the Saviour and King of the world. Anna too, another elderly person, is sharing this privilege of meeting the Saviour of the world in the person of the Christ-child. For this special grace she too begins to praise God. But more than that, she speaks to anyone who shows any interest, of the greatness, goodness and destiny of this baby.

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For both Simeon and Anna their experience of meeting the Christ-child is one of relief and peace, light and life, hope and joy. In a word, their meeting with Jesus is an experience of being saved. They are also aware that the Christ-child himself is meeting his God in God’s own house.

For us who have come together today to celebrate the feast of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the feast is a reminder of all that Christ has meant to us, and all that he continues to mean to us. We came into his presence and company on the day we were led into the House of God to be baptised. We have met him many times since. For example, in the guidance and protection, the goodness and kindness, the love and support, of our parents! In the friendship of many other family members and of many other significant people in our lives! In particular things too that have happened to us! We have also met Christ in other sacraments we have celebrated, and especially in those of Reconciliation, Eucharist, and Marriage.

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It is precisely because of the length and depth of our relationship with Christ, that we can praise God in our Eucharist today with words taken from the Christmas Preface which we will be praying: ‘In him we see our God made visible and so are caught up in the love of the God we cannot see.’

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Moreover, it is precisely because of the length and depth of our relationship with Christ that we will ask God in the words of our Prayer after Holy Communion: ‘Eternal Father, we want to live as Jesus, Mary, and Joseph in peace with you and one another. May this communion strengthen us to face the troubles of life. AMEN.’

bgleesoncp@gmail.com

Brian Gleeson special photoPassionist logo in glass thKDM7CEFT

 

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