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17th Sunday of Year A – 2020

A period of pandemic… this is what we have been experiencing.
The confinement imposed on us is being relaxed but we cannot do all we used to do in the past.
During those months, many people have been busy with different types of activities, meaningful activities.

Some people have decided to spend some time in… sorting out things – things of all kinds.
Objects gathered over the years: old tools and utensils, souvenirs from journeys here and there, letters whose paper has now turned yellow, photos, etc.

Strangely enough, this is what the last part of today’s gospel invites us to do (Mt.13:47-48).
It presents us with the scene of fishermen doing precisely that:

“The kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet that was cast into the sea
and gathered some of every kind,  
which, when it was full, they drew to shore;
and they sat down and gathered the good into vessels, but threw the bad away.”
 
Our sorting out will be of a different kind, the things to keep and those to throw away will vary.
But still, a choice is required…
Objects hoarded for a long time perhaps, yes, but more still perhaps: values, relationships, commitments…
Some of them to keep and develop, others to discard without hesitation.

It is interesting to hear Jesus ask his apostles:
“Have you understood all these things?”

 The question is asked of us also… the response is waiting… and the sorting out process also…

 

Note: Another reflection on a different theme in French can be found at: https://image-i-nations.com/17e-dimanche-de-lannee-a-2020/

And a reflection on the text of the 2nd reading is offered in video format in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/rencontre-inattendue/

 

Source: Image: Grace Baptist Church                    

 

Feast of Pentecost, Year C – 2019

Week after week, Sunday after Sunday, we are given Scripture readings to ponder over.
Written in a language which is not the one of our daily conversations, it may happen that we do not grasp the full meaning of the texts.
It may also be that the truth they express is so wonderful that we wonder if we can rely on what we read or hear.
We may ask ourselves: “Are these words really meant for us as well as for the people of the past?”

The gospel of this feast of Pentecost (Jn.14:15-16,23-26) is one such texts that tell us something astonishing.
On the eve of his death, Jesus told his friends, the apostles:
 
« I shall ask the Father and he will give you another Advocate,
to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth…
He will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you.”
 
I read these words, I repeat them to myself, and… I ask myself: 
‘Is it really true for me?
Am I convinced of this?
Do I rely on this amazing reality?’

The Father cannot fail to answer Jesus’ prayer – it is absolutely unthinkable.
On the other hand, we have been baptised and we have received the Holy Spirit.
He is with us, not for a time but “for ever”, Jesus assures us.

So, it means that we have… a private teacher, a very special tutor to help us understand and remember –
understand Jesus’ message and remember it as we live from day today.

What is missing then?
Perhaps only… the faith that it is so…
And the prayer, from the heart, asking to understand and to remember.

Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/fete-de-la-pentecote-annee-c-2019/

 

Source: Image: www.stignatius.jp

 

2nd Sunday of Easter, Year C – 2019

Today’s gospel text (Jn.20:19-31) is rather discrete in terms of the apostles’ reaction to Jesus sudden appearance to them on Easter Sunday.
John simply tells us that “The disciples were filled with joy.”
 
In his telling of the same happening, Luke says that they were “in a state of alarm and fright as they thought they were seeing a ghost.” (Lk.24:37).
 
As I try to picture the scene and imagine what the apostles must have felt, the words that come to me to describe them are: surprised, astonished, amazed… utterly dumbfounded!
They knew that Jesus had been nailed on a cross (we can suppose that John who was present had given them some of the details…) and a soldier had pierced his side with a lance (Jn.19:26).
He had died, there was no doubt about this.

And now, suddenly, absolutely unexpected, there he is in front of them – ALIVE!
The word ‘surprise’ is hardly strong enough to mention what the apostles experienced at that moment.

Writing the word ‘surprise’, I recall a book published some years ago entitled: God of surprises (Gerard W. Hughes).
It may not be an attribute that is often given to God, but personally I believe it is very appropriate.

Looking at my life, what happened in the distant past and more recently, I can vouch for this truth:
God is indeed a surprising God!

  • Surprising in his amazing creativity,
  • surprising in his tremendous generosity,
  • surprising in his unfailing forgiveness,
  • surprising in his unfathomable understanding,
  • surprising in his permanent presence… in spite of sometimes having to wait for a welcome!

Surprising, absolutely!
Have you not noticed this for yourself?…

Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/2e-dimanche-de-paques-annee-c-2019/
And a video (in English) is also offered where the second part of the gospel is presented: https://image-i-nations.com/thomas-the-apostle/

Source: Image: pinterest.com

Palm Sunday, Year B

As an introduction to the celebration of Palm Sunday, we are given a choice between two gospel texts:
one from Mark (11:1-10) and the other from John (12:12-16).
In the shorter text from John, one verse caught my attention:

“At the time, his disciples did not understand…
Later… they remembered.”
 
It was not the only time that the apostles were puzzled by what Jesus said and did.
At times, back at home, they would question him and asked for explanations (Mk.7:17).
I often think they were lucky to have Jesus answer their questions!…
Yet, even seeing Jesus with their own eyes and sharing daily life with him, it seems that this did not enable them to understand everything…

On the day when Jesus entered Jerusalem acclaimed by the crowd as king, his close friends could not figure out how and why he agreed to this display of admiration.
In fact, people were welcoming him as king and Messiah – the promised Saviour God was to send them one day.
Now, they believed that this day had come and Jesus was the one they had been waiting for to free them from the domination of strangers.
Of course, they did not understand either!

Looking at life and events, it is all too obvious that there are many situations when we simply do not understand God’s ways.
He does not conform to our standards.
He does not fit into our categories.
He does not act as we would expect God to do.
And that is because… he is GOD.

This answer seems too easy and yet… is there any other that can explain God’s ways?
The apostles understood what had happened only LATER… “after Jesus had been glorified.”
For us, too, often some time must elapse before we come to see the purpose of what has happened in this or that situation…

Accepting not to understand, not to see clearly right there and then.
Accepting God’s… delays, God’s time, God’s rhythm for our lives, for our world…

Note: Another reflection is available in French on a different theme at: https://image-i-nations.com/dimanche-rameaux-annee-b/

Source: Image: YouTube

3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B

‘This is foolish, this is nonsense, this is stupid’ – and there are other such attributes that are used to qualify something which we find unacceptable.

These expressions came to me when I read the text of the 2nd reading of this Sunday (3rd Sunday of Lent, Year B – 1 Cor.1:22-25).
Amazingly, the apostle Paul speaks of “the foolishness of God” – quite a daring expression which may scandalize some people!
And yet…

God’s ways are not our ways, we have been told long ago by the prophet Isaiah (Is.55:8).
And we must admit that, sometimes, his ways are somehow… unacceptable to us!
His wisdom does appear foolishness in our eyes, eyes with a short-sighted perspective.

Just a few verses before today’s text, Paul was writing the words of the picture here beside.
Yes, preaching a crucified Lord must have seemed pure foolishness to the people of old, as it is for many people nowadays.
Power, authority, control, influence, mastery, domination, are the ‘in-things’ – who wants to be weak, powerless, without authority and control?
And, sad to say, this is sometimes true in religious circles as well as secular ones…

Jesus had tried to have his apostles live this message of being – like him – servants, not masters (Jn.13:14).
He had said clearly that the last will be the first… a hard lesson if ever there was one (Mt.19:16).

To this day, many will say: ‘This is the world upside down’!
And what if… ‘the world upside down’ were… the kingdom of God in our midst?…

Note: Another reflection on a different theme is available in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/3e-dimanche-careme-annee-b/ 
Source: Image: Pinterest

22nd Sunday of the Year A

Some texts of Scripture are comforting and encouraging.
Others are demanding and quite challenging.
This is the case with the words we hear in the readings of this Sunday (22nd of Year A).

In his letter to the Romans, Paul invites them (12:1-2) to something especially difficult when he tells them:

“to discover the will of God and know what is good,
what it is that God wants, what is the perfect thing to do.”

Searching for what is good and pleasing to God, yes, but more still: striving for what is perfect!
This advice is a challenge indeed, it calls for an ongoing effort to stretch ourselves, to go beyond what has been achieved already.
It asks for… more!

And is there not a little irony in the fact that the well-known sign for more is… + yes, the sign of a cross!

In today’s gospel (Mt.16:21-27), Jesus tells his apostles that this is what is awaiting him: the cross.
His words meet with more than a little resistance from Peter.
As they may do from us also…

But Jesus message is clear and uncompromising:
“If anyone wants to be a follower of mine…
let him take up his cross and follow me.”  

We would rather choose another way but… this is HIS way.
And, as he asks us to follow him, we know that he is inviting us also to where this leads:
“When the Son of God comes in his glory, he will reward each one according to his behaviour.” 

Source: Image: Catholic in Brooklyn – blogger

19th Sunday of the Year A

The theme of last Sunday (Feast of the Transfiguration, Year A) is back again: Do not be afraid…”

Yet, the situation described in today’s gospel (19th Sunday of Year A – Mt.14:22-33) is quite frightening!
A storm on the lake and the apparition of… a mysterious being walking on the water – this is most unusual and rather scary, even for grown-up fishermen like the Apostles.

After the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus had stayed behind to send back the people.
He had remained on his own to pray.
An unexpected storm is raging and the apostles are alone.
They feel insecure and they struggle to face a situation which they seem unable to control.

The strange being moving in the distance does not reassure them in any way.
Then, they hear the voice they know well: that of Jesus himself telling them, yes, not to be afraid!
As usual, the first to react is Peter who utters a request typically true-to-character:
“Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.”
 
We know the rest!
Peter has somehow put Jesus to the test and… Jesus took him to his word.
But the test was, in fact, one of Peter’s faith!

The struggle on the lake was between the strength of the fishermen and that of the waves, of course,
But it was also a struggle between doubt and faith…
A struggle between fear and trust…
A struggle between relying on oneself and… on someone else – the one who calls to us.

And the answer needs to be repeated day in day out, on a stormy day as well as when the sun shines bright!

Source: Image: lds.org

Feast of the Transfiguration, Year A *

* (This feast takes the place of the 18th Sunday of Year)

The gospel of this Sunday (Feast of the Transfiguration, Year A – Mt.17:1-9) presents us with a scene that is rather unusual in the life of Jesus.
It is no wonder that the apostles are startled and even Peter is lost for words.

The sight of Moses and Elijah present with Jesus – a Jesus so resplendent with light – is already an amazing apparition.
But suddenly there is more: the apostles are covered with a bright cloud and from within comes a voice.
Their reaction is immediate: “They fell on their faces overcome with fear.”

Throughout the Bible, this seems to be the spontaneous reaction of human beings when God comes close to them.
Strange but true: the proximity of God which should be a source of comfort and security is experienced as overwhelming and frightening…

Today’s gospel text goes on saying:
“Jesus came and touched them and said, ‘Do not be afraid’.

It is said that these very words (or their equivalent: “Fear not”) is repeated 365 times in the Bible.
Yes, as many times as there are days in the year!
It appears that it is a lesson we have never finished learning – not to fear anything, and especially NOT God’s close presence!

God’s people throughout their history, God’s friends and God’s messengers – all needed to learn it:
Moses, Joshua, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Mary: Jesus’ mother herself, Jesus’ disciples, the apostle Paul, to mention but a few.

Perhaps… our own names could be listed as well for we share the same need, do we not?…

Source: Images: Pinterest, tapistryministry,org

 

 

6th Sunday of Easter, Year A

During the years he spent with his apostles, Jesus had spoken very often of THE Father, HIS Father.
I imagine that they had, somehow, got an idea of who he was… God, the God of their ancestors, and Jesus was his special messenger.

But the HOLY SPIRIT…?…
I ask myself what the apostles understood when Jesus mentioned him.

Of course, there is a mention of the spirit hovering over the waters in the creation narrative (Gn.1:2).
The book of Wisdom also speaks of God’s Spirit (Wis.1:6).

But in today’s gospel (6th Sunday of Easter, Year A – Jn. 14:15-21), Jesus describes THE Spirit – the one the Father will send in his name – as a living being that will interact with the apostles.

“I shall ask the Father,
and he will give you another Advocate,
to be with you for ever, the Spirit of truth…
He is with you, he is in you.”

The apostles discovered the deep meaning of this reality – the reality of this special Presence of God – throughout their lives.

The same is to take place in our own lives… from day to day.

Source: Image: www.pinterest.com

Ascension, C

www.pinterest.comWe repeat the words every time we recite the Creed : « He ascended to heaven…”  It is possible that our lips pronounce the words without our giving too much attention to what we speak. But this is what our celebration is about today. The 1st reading (Acts 1:1-11) tells us: “He (Christ) was lifted up while they looked on, and a cloud took him from their sight.”

We try to picture the small group of men, simple people, used to the tangible daily realities, witnessing this happening. We are told: “They were staring in the sky…” I believe I would have done the same! They must have thought: “What a POWER!”

Of course, during the past three years, they had seen Jesus’ power curing sick people, even raising some from the dead. They were in the boat when he had commanded to the wind, calmed the sea and the storm had abated, but THAT now… moving up into the sky, going through the clouds… that was absolutely astonishing!

Many years later, the apostle Paul (2nd reading: Eph.1:17-23) will express this in a language that no one could have used at the time:
“(God’s) power at work in Christ,
when he used it to raise him from the dead
and to make him sit at his right hand in heaven.”

Just before his Ascension Jesus had told his friends:
“I am sending down to you what the Father has promised (the Spirit).
Stay in the city then, until you are clothed with the power from on high.”  (Gospel Lk.24:46-53)

Paul adds that God has also used this power “for us believers.” You may be wondering… where… how… has God used his power for you, in your life?
Today’s feast may be a good occasion to find out… and to remain assured that he is still using this power for you, in you…

Source: Image: www.pinterest.com