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4th Sunday of Lent Year A, 2017. A Homiletic reflection by Fr Brian Gleeson, CP, Melbourne Australia. SEEING IN THE DARK.

 SEEING IN THE DARK.

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You and I belong to a Christian community of stories and storytellers. In the telling of the stories of Jesus especially, our own stories are told. As we identify with the people in those stories, with their distress, anger, anxiety, hopes, fears, struggles, sadness and joy, we too are led to make living contact with our Saviour. We are challenged by his words, supported by his love, and healed by his touch.

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Today’s gospel reading is the story of Jesus ‘the Light of the World’. It’s the story too of the blind man. It’s our story too. Three stories, then, are interwoven and interconnected.

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The blind man has lived in a world of darkness from the day he was born. He has never seen his room, his table, his chair, his bed, his door. He has never seen flowers, or trees, or children. He has never seen anyone or anything. Besides, with nothing like an invalid pension to ease his distress, his struggle to survive has been reduced to begging in the streets, a struggle aggravated by abuse, insults and contempt from passers-by.

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Leading lights in the town have been baiting him with their ignorant accusation: ‘Your blindness was caused by your sins.’ Even after his blindness is plainly cured they keep up their sneers: ‘What you allege just didn’t happen. This Jesus fellow is a sinner. Sinners can’t cure people. Anyway, you weren’t blind in the first place.’

All through their bullying the patient sufferer never loses his cool, and replies to every accusation with the unvarnished truth. And through it all he grows in his appreciation of the greatness of the One who has so generously stepped into his life to help and heal.

At first he sees in Jesus a man with special powers, one who can smear mud on a blind person’s eyes and make the sufferer see again. Next he comes to see that Jesus is a prophet, a messenger of God. Finally he recognises Jesus as his Lord and King, and bows down and worships him.

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As the blind man’s story unravels bit by bit, the story of the greatness of Jesus is also told. He speaks and acts as the light shining in the darkness, one which will never be put out. He repudiates the prejudice that physical blindness is caused by sin. He speaks of getting on with God’s healing work while there is daylight left to do it. He sees the urgency of the blind man’s plight and goes to his rescue immediately. He ignores the ignorant and foolish sneers of his enemies. And when the man he delivers from blindness is expelled from the synagogue, Jesus even seeks him out to empower him to develop a more lively faith, a surer hope and a deeper love.

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Where do we find our own story in all this? For each of us – old, middle-aged, or young – the blind man’s story is our story too. It tells the story of our becoming Christians through faith and baptism. In the early days of the Church, when people were baptised as adults rather than children, baptism had the name ‘The Enlightenment’. At our own baptism our priest lit a candle from the Easter Candle, symbol of the Risen Lord, and handing it to our father or godfather for us, said these marvellous words: ‘Receive the light of Christ.’
Even as the story of the blind man’s enlightenment shows us the influence of Jesus on the blind man’s honesty, courage, determination, faith, hope and love, it also shows us what it means to ‘walk always as a child of the light’ (Rite of Baptism). What that means is nothing less than always seeing, feeling, judging and acting, just as Jesus himself has done. It involves, then, asking that WWJD question over and over again: ‘What would Jesus do?’

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The psychiatrist, In Peter Schaeffer’s play Equus, and remarks: ‘I need a way of seeing in the dark.’ In today’s gospel reading, St John leaves us in no doubt that Jesus is that way. We remain hopelessly blind if we think that we’ve got life all figured out, that we’ve got it all together, and that we don’t need Jesus Christ to show us a purer, a better, a more enlightened, genuine, and generous way of living.

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In the light of our gospel today on Jesus ‘the Light of the World’, surely we would want to keep saying to him: ‘Lord Jesus, how much blindness is there still left in me? How much selfishness do I still display? How much insensitivity remains in me, how much prejudice, how much snobbery, how much self-righteousness, how much hypocrisy, how much pride, and how much meanness and nastiness? Lord Jesus, just how many blind spots do I have?’ And each of us would surely want to pray to him too, these three famous short prayers: – 1. ‘Lord, that I may see, Lord, that I may see.’ 2. ‘Lord Jesus, give us the grace to see ourselves as others see us.’ And 3. ‘Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.’

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4th Sunday of Lent Year A, 2017. A realhomilie from Fr.Kevin Walsh, Sydney, Australia. ‘Lord, that I may see’.

‘Lord, that I may see’.

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One of the many hazards in driving a car is when you are in the middle lane and another car sneaks up on your left hand side, and then sits in your blind spot!  No doubt, you have been in a car or perhaps you have been the driver when this has happened to you? The feeling of shock and horror can cause a weakness in the knees, a horrible feeling in one’s stomach, let alone a reaction to the breaks! If the unfortunate smash occurs, one could be tempted to say: “I didn’t see the car”.

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The Gospel reading today is about the cure of a blind man.  But the story has far deeper implications than just a person receiving his sight back…this story contains a great challenge to all of us, because it is about the ability to see with the eyes of faith! The whole Gospel story today is a Drama being acted out, about the different levels of seeing with the eyes of faith, and the various stages of growth in faith. So, let’s see if we can get a handle on what is going on in this story, let’s go for an everyday situation like driving the car. Well, spiritually speaking, we all have our own personal blind spots.  Lent is a time to have a look at some of these, and in response to God’s invitation, we can make steps to develop a clearer vision, so that we may sharpen our insight into seeing the saving hand of God at work in our lives, and within the community.

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Let’s not skip over the actions that take place in the Gospel story, because they all have a profound meaning on us, for all time. Let’s take note that it was Jesus who saw the man that had been blind from birth. Jesus always sees us; we may think that we are just one in the crowd; no way, Our Lord’s gaze is eternally on each one of us. That in itself can be hard to realise, but it is true, and deep down we can appreciate it, but can we SEE Him??

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Notice that Jesus makes a paste with the earth….how extraordinary? But let’s stay with this for a minute or two. In Hebrew the generic for ‘homo sapiens’ (meaning wise man) is ADAM.  Where does Adam come from according to the Book of Genesis? MANKIND comes from the adamah! In Hebrew that means the earth! It also implies that it is the ruddy earth, meaning the rich soil of earth. Now the Divine component within the earthen image is the ruah, in Hebrew, that means the creative breath of God. Water is also a special sign of ‘life’; being rejuvenated in the primeval waters, new life comes forth. Let’s take note of this when the blind man is sent by Jesus to the Pool of Siloam.

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So, in John’s Gospel, the Sacramental experience of being born again, being made new, is underlined. Water also had an indelible mark on the corporate mind of our ancestors in faith, e.g. the liberating waters of the Sea of Reeds, the new life as received from the waters of Meribah, the new life offered to the Samaritan Woman, by Jesus in last week’s Gospel. So here we are just scratching the surface of the deep spiritual significance that the elements signify in the Gospel. Now let’s get back to our blindness, and the new creation that God wishes to make in us. Each time we respond to Christ’s invitation to see anew, and to ‘change our hearts’, out faith-insight develops and sharpens.

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Our sinfulness can be a form of blindness; in recognizing our inner blind spots, is half the battle in getting rid of them. Today’s Gospel makes a very clear point, that the blind man had no problem in admitting his blindness. The amazing thing is that the blind man saw more than the religious leaders could; he gradually saw the saving hand of God at work, in Jesus; whereas the Pharisees had perfect eyesight, but could not SEE! Jesus called them blind! And sadly, they remained in their blindness, because they refused to acknowledge it.  There are many forms of blindness which are just as crippling to the human spirit as being visually impaired. Here are a few examples:

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Selfishness: this blinds us to the needs of others.

Insensitivity: this blinds us to the hurt we are causing others.

Snobbery: this blinds us to the equal dignity of others;

Pride: this blinds us to our own faults;

Prejudice: this blinds us to the truth.

Self-centeredness: this blinds us to the beauty of the world around us;

Materialism: this blinds us, and makes us numb to spiritual values. Food for thought!

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Fr Kevin Walsh

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Email: kevin.w3@bigpond.com Web:https://realhomilies.wordpress.com/

 

 

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3rd Sunday of Lent Year A, 2017. A Homiletic reflection by Fr Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne Australia. DECIDING FOR LIFE…..

 DECIDING FOR LIFE…..

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Decisions! Decisions! Decisions! Life is full of them. Many are not particularly important. Many are routine. But sometimes we sense a need deep inside us to make a decision that is different. One that is going to change our lives so much that life will never be the same again! We decide, e.g. to take our problem to a counsellor. We join a support group for help with an addiction. We accept an offer of friendship. We join a club. We meet someone special and fall in love. We answer an advertisement for a job that will take us interstate or overseas. We leave a higher paying job for one with more meaning, one in which we can be more helpful to others. We quit hanging out with friends whose standards and values are dragging us down. We sense a call from God to work for others as a church worker or a social worker.

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The change we need or want to make requires us to leave a lot behind, leave our comfort zones and alter our lifestyles. But the promise of better days ahead impels us to take this brand new direction in our journey of life.

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We see this happening today with ‘the woman at the well’ who seemingly by chance comes across Jesus resting at Jacob’s well in the region of Samaria. It happens like this: – It’s mid-day. Jesus is thirsty. He’s thirsty for water, but even more he is thirsty for a meaningful connection with this woman, to other Jews an alien and outsider. The story-teller does not give her a name because she represents each one of us. Her conversation with Jesus includes symbols and word-plays. Eventually he breaks through her sarcasm and her other defences and touches the guilty secrets of her life. After five husbands already, her current live-in lover is not her husband at all!

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His focus on her past life is not to hurt her but to expand her vision and offer her hope. She grasps that in the unexpected friendship this stranger is now offering her, something new and wonderful is happening. Even in her messed-up life God is getting involved and reaching out to her with compassion! So much so, that she cannot but ask herself: ‘Who is this man who is so different from all the others I’ve known? Why is he so respectful? Why is he so attentive? Why is he so kind and caring? Is he perhaps even greater than the father of our people, Jacob? Could he possibly be a prophet with a message from God? Could he even be the promised Messiah, the Saviour of all?’

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She is now the one who is thirsty. She is thirsting, longing, craving, to get to know him better. As they continue their conversation she finds that Jesus is satisfying her thirst not only to know him better, but also her longing and determination to get a life, a brand new life, a much better life than ever before. It’s his interest in her, his words, his gestures, and his whole attitude, together with the time and space he’s giving her that is making all the difference. She finds him as purifying, refreshing and invigorating as a stream of running water. She’s sensing something of the truth spoken by St Paul in our Second Reading today: ‘… the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit … given to us’. She’s sensing, in short, that Jesus loves her, and that God in Jesus loves her. She’s now convinced that life will never be the same again because she will never be the same again.

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There and then she reaches another decision – that she simply cannot keep Jesus all to herself. She must bring others to him as well. So we find her running to her village and shouting at the top of her voice to anyone and everyone who will listen, the good news about him. She blurts out: ‘He just told me everything I’ve ever done.’ Touched by her excitement and enthusiasm, the villagers beg Jesus to stay with them. He ends up staying two whole days. His words and presence make such a deep impression that they end up saying to the woman: ‘Now we no longer believe because of what you have told us; we have heard him for ourselves and we know that he really is the saviour of the world.’

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Our story of ‘the woman at the well’ asks you and me to remember and keep remembering all the ways we have experienced the presence of Jesus to us, and all the ways we have experienced his love for us. It asks us to consider how humble, kind, sensitive, understanding and forgiving he has been with us. It asks us in return to extend the firm hand of friendship and the over-flowing waters of mercy, compassion, acceptance, kindness and forgiveness, to every person who comes into our lives. To family, friends, colleagues, workmates, strangers, customers, clients, patients, students, simply to anybody and everybody!

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This touching story of the goodness and kindness of Jesus goes with the words of our psalm today, ‘if today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts’. So much so that you and I will surely also want to go to Jesus, the Saviour of the world in Holy Communion with him today, and beg him to stay with us always and forever. To stay with us and be for us and for every other person that very same living, purifying, refreshing, life-giving water that he was to that truly blessed woman, the one known for evermore as ‘the woman at the well’!
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3rd Sunday of Lent Year A, 2017. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney Australia. The Water of new life, never runs dry!

 The Water of new life, never runs dry!

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We live in a land of extremes!!! Droughts, floods, cyclones, scorching heat waves, thundering surf, gentle breezes, blue skies and warm sunshine! A sun burnt country surrounded by jewel seas! The interior of the Holy Land in lots of ways is somewhat like our own. When one is thirsty, there is nothing more that matters than to have 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 Egyptian slavery, their 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 their loving God among them.

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In the midst of their questions and grumbling, God once again hears the cry and appeal from His people, and the Lord God comes to their aid. The water gushing from the rock at Meribah was more than just a free cold drink! It had 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, even while they were somewhat wayward.

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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; life giving water is the greatest symbol par excellence of ‘new life’.

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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, in some of the most unusual places and through people that would never have come to our mind.

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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 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! Fortunately, we see this all the time in Pope Francis who welcomes everyone, much to this distaste of some of his Cardinals, Bishops, Priests and people. 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 Examinations 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.

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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…”

OUR FAMILY PRAYER TIME………

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This is a great opportunity to gather the Family in Prayer. Having a Prayer Setting really adds to and designates this time as a ‘special’ time together. You might like to have a nice coloured cloth on a coffee table, or on the centre of the Dining Room Table. You will need a candle, Crucifix, Bible …in the opened position, even at the Gospel of the Sunday, and maybe a flower. During Lent you might like to place some purple material on your devotional altar. You might like to create your own permanent ‘sacred space’ in your home, where the Word of God is open, and a small tee light within a fire proof glass, could awaken in the minds and hearts of your family of the ‘real presence’ of God in His Word. Prayer time needs to be able to engage as many of our senses as possible. The burning of some fragrant oil also can evoke in the minds of your family, ‘prayer time’. Someone in the family might like to be the leader of the intercessions, then other family members can share the prayers….everyone can be invited to join is spontaneous shared prayer…

Baptism

LEADER: By the water of baptism we become members of Christ’s Body, the Church. With complete confidence we make known our needs to the Lord.
1. For all Church leaders from pope to parish ministers, that their work be blessed and made fruitful, we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
2. For the leaders of our country and of every nation, that they work together to meet the needs of the poor, we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
3. For those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, justice and peace, that they be satisfied, we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
4. For those who are preparing for adult baptism at Easter, that they look forward to this celebration with fervent joy, we pray to the Lord:
5. For all of us who worship together, that the love of God be abundantly poured into our hearts so we may pour out that love to others, we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
6. For the ill, the aged and the dying, that their hope in God’s merciful love give them comfort and peace, we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
7. For all who have died, especially N. and N., that they rejoice in the glory of God, we pray to the Lord: Lord, graciously hear us.
8. 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 iPads….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: Gracious and generous God, help us to worship you in spirit and in truth and to be ever more grateful for your gifts of life and love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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The Blessing……..
Blessing is taken from the Iona Abbey Sacramentary, Scotland.
Iona Abbey is located on the Isle of Iona, just off the Isle of Mull on the West Coast of Scotland. It is one of the oldest and most important religious centres in Western Europe. The abbey was a focal point for the spread of Christianity throughout Scotland and marks the foundation of a monastic community by St. Columba, when Iona was part of the Kingdom of Dál Riata.

Leader: The Cross
ALL WE SHALL TAKE IT.
The bread……………
ALL WE SHALL BREAK IT.
The pain
ALL WE SHALL BEAR IT.
The joy………………
ALL WE SHALL SHARE IT.
The Gospel……………
ALL WE SHALL LIVE IT.
The love…………
ALL WE SHALL GIVE IT.
The light……………
ALL WE SHALL CHERISH IT.
The darkness…………….
ALL WE SHALL PERISH IT. Amen.

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Fr Kevin Walsh
 Email: kevin.w3@bigpond.com Web:https://realhomilies.wordpress.com/

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2nd Sunday Year A, 2017. A realhomilie from Fr Kevin Walsh, Sydney Australia. Transfiguration as it was and as it is……

 Transfiguration as it was and as it is……

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Today’s Gospel is about the Transfiguration of Jesus. We have heard it so many times before but it contains an evergreen meaning for us every time we reflect upon it. At a glance, we see in this story that the veil was lifted very slightly to give the apostles a fleeting glimpse into the nature of Jesus. He was of course, human and therefore, until now, their only experiences of Him had been within that human context. However, this was different!

Peter, James and John were close friends of Jesus, and it appears, that they were the ones who seemed to accompany Him. At the human level, they would claim to know Him well, to know how He thought and to be familiar with His actions. In this situation however, there was something different. In the presence of such a sacred experience, the natural human reaction of the apostles was to be afraid … even terrified … to the extent that they covered their faces. The face of Jesus became like a mirror, reflecting back the glory of the Father to them. The appearance of Moses as the Lawgiver, and Elijah as the Prophet, was enormously significant, because Jesus had announced that His mission was to fulfil the Law and the Prophets.

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Being afraid in the presence of the ‘Sacred’ was not an uncommon experience. Remember when the Lord God in Exodus, chapter 3 asked Moses to be the instrument and leader in the deliverance of the chosen people from slavery? Moses was not exactly over the moon about the prospect; in fact, he too was afraid. Then, on Mt. Sinai, Moses hid his face while in the presence of God during that precious moment when God initiated the great Covenant/Marriage Contract with his people … ”I will be your God and you shall be my people.” Again, remember when Our Lady received a surprise visit from the Angel Gabriel at the Annunciation? She too was disturbed and afraid. However, the Angel sensed her agitation and calmed her by saying … “Do not be afraid, you have won God’s favour”.

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There are times in our own lives when we have experienced a special closeness to God and it is not unusual to be afraid. So, when this happens, let us remember that we are in “good company”. It has happened to others before, and it will happen to lots of others in the future.

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Let us now go back to the Mount of the Transfiguration. When the vision was over and Moses and Elijah had gone, and the brilliance was dimmed, the apostles opened their eyes (and these words are powerfully significant) and they saw no one but only Jesus. Jesus and His companions had to come down from the Mountain where mystically they would wish that the experience continued forever. However, the Life and Mission of Jesus and His Disciples had to continue, leading to the Cross and Resurrection.

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We are not finished with what happened on Mt.Tabor yet……We must remember that the Apostles were not watching the Transfiguration on a stage! They were right in it; this moment wrapped them within a mantle of ‘awe, wonder, fright and thanksgiving’. Now, let’s be deeply curious, let us re-enter those moments in our own lives when we have been within a moment of wonder! A moment of transfiguration, may I say? The nuances within Matthew’s Transfiguration are as real in the here and now, as they were back then. Let’s go deep sea diving into the Scriptures! Throughout the Scriptures, Mountains are places of Revelation, they are the place of ‘wonder moments’ they are the places where the reality of Heaven is gently meshed into the reality on Earth. This experience, in Celtic Spirituality is often called a ‘thin moment’ or it happens in a ‘thin place’. The Celtic name for this experience may be new to you, but the experience, I’m sure is not. Let’s think it through; Have you had experiences in your life where unexpectedly, you have been gently caught up in moment in which you may have felt a bit terrified, but then you slowly warm to the moment as the moment warms to you; and then you ‘know’ that the Lord, an Angel, or a departed member of your family is very close to you? Please think back in your life to such moments of a ‘glimpse’ or eternal rapture. You might ask, in what part of your body did you feel this? It would seem, according to Celtic tradition that we feel these things in the pit of our stomach…….called a gut feeling! The moment might not be long, in terms of seconds or minutes, but the result within us stays forever. Like the Apostles in today’s Gospel, they wanted to contain that experience when Jesus was transfigured and they too, may I add, were transfigured. They suggested in building places to guard and acknowledge that hollowed place and experience. For us too, we would like that holistic experience to continue. The truth is, that it can continue, whenever we ‘still ourselves’ and re member and re visit that experience.

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Moments of Transfiguration for us do happen, and they are part of the mystical experience of Christianity. Christianity is a mystical religion! It is not just the following of rules, and the acting out of rituals and rubrics. We as a community, act out mystical experiences in and through Liturgy; the Celebration of the Eucharist is the summit and source of community worship.

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What do Transfiguration moments, or thin moments do for us? It seems that one of the deepest results is the deepening of our faith; in this instance, I use the word faith meaning INSIGHT! That is, the ability to see the saving hand of God at work! This happened for the Apostles, this happened for Jesus while in prayer, this happens for us as well. I also might add, that while we pray The Lord’s Prayer, especially where we say ‘thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven’ it is a statement about our Christian Mission, namely in bringing Heaven to Earth! Transfiguration moments or thin moments make present the Kingdom here but not yet complete, in short, and Eschatological moment.

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During this time of Lent, let us make time to go up our own Mountain and enter into stillness. Let God’s powerful Word speak to our hearts … in the loving silence of our room, church, garden, or in the ‘bush’ or by the sea. May those moments be times of re-transfiguration, giving us energy and understanding of our mission in the here and now. In doing this, we will all be journeying together in our earthly Pilgrimage to the Father, cherishing glimpses of thin moments when we brush against the membrane, which gently separates us from Heaven.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS / PERSONAL REFLECTION QUESTIONS.

    • How would you define prayer in one sentence? In your own words perhaps you could start like this….I think that prayer is……..
    • Do you feel that your way of praying has changed as you have grown older and wiser? If it has, would you like to tell us?
    • From your past and perhaps even now, would you like to talk about what your prayer is based on? e.g. Love, Thanksgiving, Praise, Fear.
    • Jesus found it necessary to go off into quiet places to pray: when do you feel the need to pray?
    • What are some of your difficulties in trying to pray?
    • When was your first Transfiguration experience? Where was it and what happened? What did that experience mean for you and do for you?
    • Where have you experienced ‘thin’ moments? Was it on top of Mt.Sinai? Was it when you were close to the tomb of a Saint? Was it in the central White Tower of London, in the Chapel of St.Peter ad vincula where the bones of hundreds of Martyrs are plastered in its walls?
    • Other mystical Religions also have ‘thin’ moments and places; have you experienced some of those? 

 

Fr Kevin Walsh

Sydney. Australia

Email: kevin.w3@bigpond.com Web:https://realhomilies.wordpress.com/

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2nd Sunday of Lent Year A, 2017. A Gospel Reflection from Fr Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne Australia. LISTENING TO JESUS.

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LISTENING TO JESUS 

St Augustine is one of the most famous saints of the Church. Early in his life he was drawn to the person of Jesus Christ and to the Christian way of life. But for a long time both lust and pride got in the way of his taking the plunge and getting baptised. Eventually, however, both he and his fifteen year old son, born out of marriage but named Adeodatus (meaning Gift of God), were baptised together in the Church of Milan. This happened on April 25th, 387.

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Augustine has recorded in his memoirs called the Confessions two religious experiences which transformed his attitudes and his whole way of life. One has to do with a text from the bible, the other with music.

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In the first incident, Augustine has thrown himself under a fig tree. He is depressed to the point of tears at the remembrance of his sins. He asks God how much longer can God put up with him. Then suddenly from a house near by, he hears the voice of a child calling out over and over again, ‘Tolle, lege! Take it up, read it! Take it up, read it!’ Immediately Augustine stops crying, his whole face lights up, and he goes to the bible to take and read the first words he finds there. On opening the book his eyes fall on these words of St Paul: ‘Let us conduct ourselves properly, as people who live in the light of day – no orgies or drunkenness, no immorality or indecency, no fighting or jealousy. But take up the weapons of the Lord Jesus Christ, and stop paying attention to your sinful nature and satisfying its desires’ (Letter to the Romans 13:12-13). The message is overpowering. He can resist the Lord no longer.

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Some time later his determination to live as a Christian is reinforced by a second experience. This time it’is the singing of the Christians in the church at Milan. He remembers the deep impression the singing made on him. He says to God in his memoirs: ‘I wept at the beauty of your hymns and canticles, and was powerfully moved at the sweet sound of your [people] singing. These sounds flowed into my ears and truth streamed into my heart.’ Through the grace of God coming to Augustine in those two experiences, he was changed, transformed, transfigured. He became a new person, and later a priest, bishop, and writer. On a wall of his house he had the following sentence written in large letters: ‘Here we do not speak evil of anyone.’

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It’s obvious from the gospels that people around Jesus expected him to change all kinds of situations. So they brought him their sick, their crippled, their mentally disturbed, their children, and their other worries. He healed some. He comforted and supported others. But as a general rule Jesus did not usher in an age of instant, total, and permanent change of situations. The grass did not grow any greener. The trees did not grow bigger fruits. The wheat in the fields did not yield bigger crops. The rain did not fall more abundantly. The sun did not shine any brighter. And not every sick person he met went home feeling better.

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But some changes did occur, changes in people themselves, including the changes that came over Jesus himself first of all. There on the top of the mountain he begins to shine like the sun with the splendour and glory of God. In his new condition, he receives encouragement from those great spokespersons for God, Moses and Elijah. In effect they tell him: ‘Keep doing your good work. keep your mission going. Even if it leads to the agony of the cross, it will end in glory, the glory you are now experiencing.’

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Change comes over the friends of Jesus, Peter, James and John as well, who have seen the change in Jesus and who are awe-struck, puzzled and perplexed by it. The change that happens to them is deepened when they hear God speaking to them in the voice from the cloud: ‘This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him!’ So God is saying to them: ‘Do what he tells you. Live his teachings.’ From that moment those first friends of Jesus see him in a new light. They take him more seriously as messenger of God and saviour. They also understand that a new world, a better world, must start with them, must start with their heeding that message of God: ‘Listen to Jesus!’

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‘Listen to Jesus!’ That’s a message for you and me too. Is there, e.g. someone right now who is driving us crazy? Is there someone we are fighting? Is there some group we are experiencing in a negative way? How would Jesus see them? How does Jesus see them? What would Jesus do? What words of his can help? What do we hear him saying to us?

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‘Listen to Jesus!’ Can we do that especially during our holy communion today, when he visits us as our light and strength, visiting us to change us for the better? Only if we change and become better people can we hope to rise with him to a new, transformed and glorious life. In our holy communion with him today, then, may he influence us to overcome all fear and indifference, all selfishness and laziness, all harshness and hardness of heart. In fact, to overcome anything and everything that may be stopping us from walking with him along the road to Jerusalem and listening to him along the way!

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1st Sunday of Lent Year A, 2017. A Gospel Reflection from Fr Brian Gleeson CP, Melbourne, Australia. FACING AND FIGHTING TEMPTATION

 FACING AND FIGHTING TEMPTATION

A fruiterer was watching a boy standing in front of his fruit stall and gazing at all the beautiful fruit on display. After a while he could restrain himself no longer. ‘What are you trying to do, young man,’ he asked, ‘steal my apples?’ ‘No sir,’ said the boy, ‘I’m trying not to.’ That little story says that the child had come to understand that he was not a puppet on a string, but faced a choice: Will I do the right thing or the wrong thing? It also says just how real temptations of all kinds can be, and just what a tension and struggle it can be not to give in to temptation.

Thank God we still have the living memory of Jesus – his teaching, example and presence – to remind us that by turning to him for strength and support, we can overcome our temptations. Even if our past record in resisting temptation has been spotty to say the least, we can eventually triumph, not by our own sheer will-power and determination, but through our faith and trust in Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit. As a priest once put it to a man he met outside the monastery gate. ‘We fall down, we get up. We fall down, we get up. We fall down, we get up. The saints are just the sinners who fall down and get up.’

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Today we remember Jesus’ own secret in resisting temptation. But doing so was no easier for him than it is for us. As a matter of fact he went through a terrible struggle to choose between God and self. The tension and agony of it all is spelled out for us today in Matthew’s dramatic story of the temptations in the desert. What they have in common is that they are temptations to selfishness.

First the tempter suggests to Jesus, who is terribly hungry after his forty-day fast in the desert: ‘If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into [loaves of] bread.’ In other words, make use of things, not for the benefit of others but for your own satisfaction, comfort and convenience. But even though Jesus’ stomach is rumbling and he is near to desperation for a bite to eat, he will not dally with this desire, not even for a moment. Instead he seeks nourishment of a different kind in God’s clear message in Scripture – ‘One does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

The second temptation which taunts Jesus is to go to the very top of the temple in Jerusalem, and defy the law of gravity by taking a flying leap from there. Surely a stunt like this, a bit of razzle-dazzle, will attract a horde of followers, and prove to Jesus personally whether God cares about him or not. The very thought of it is fascinating. Jesus, however, completely banishes the idea from his mind as he remembers and relishes God’s clear command in Scripture: ‘You must not put the Lord your God to the test.’

Jesus has survived two kinds of temptation. But the idea that comes to him next is even more subtle and more appealing. This is to use his intelligence, his ability to organise, and his personal charm, to gather round him the rich and powerful from every nation, and become a great political leader, even king of the world. This is a temptation to seek world attention and become a celebrity, and a temptation to be a political messiah pursuing fame, fortune, and empire-building. The attraction of this temptation is the very opposite of what God has said in Scripture about his chosen messiah, the saviour of the world. God clearly means his messiah to be a humble, suffering servant, someone willing to sacrifice his young life in love. Jesus remembers this and takes it to heart. And so he simply blitzes the suggestion with yet another clear command of God in Scripture: ‘You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.’

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Remember! Jesus is feeling very weak, very fragile, and very vulnerable. He has had nothing to eat or drink for forty days. And yet his fidelity and love towards God don’t waver for a moment. What, then, is his secret? His secret is his reliance on hearing and heeding the Word of God in the Scriptures. He just keeps nourishing his mind, his heart, his attitudes, his life, by remembering the Word of God.

You and I have often been exposed to temptations of one kind or another – to pride, anger, lust, gluttony, greed, jealousy, sloth, etc. Like Jesus we have turned to God for guidance and strength when we’ve been tempted. Perhaps we have relied especially on the power of those healing sacraments – Reconciliation and Eucharist.

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But for better results when we are tempted, we would do well to also do what Jesus did – read the Scriptures, reflect on the Scriptures, and pray the Scriptures. The texts of the Masses for Lent provide us with a guided reading program, a program for changing our minds, hearts and lives. It is not too late to make Lent what it is meant to be, a time for correcting our faults and raising our minds and hearts to God. A time for personal and community conversion! A time for personal and community renewal! A time for coming face-to-face with God – our origin, purpose and destiny – and being changed for the better and forever by that healing encounter!

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