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3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A – 2022-2023

Reading God’s message week after week, we are sometimes struck by an idea.
A short text perhaps, or even a single verse, can draw our attention and… we remain there.
It seems that we cannot keep on reading…
We are caught by something which has touched us in a special way.

This is the case, this Sunday, with the words of the prophet Isaiah telling us (Isaiah 35:1-6,10):

        “Courage! Do not be afraid.
        Look your God is coming…
        He is coming to save you.”
 
Salvation is a word with meaning of different kinds:

  • salvation from a painful situation, or a real threat,
  • salvation from a serious disease, or a loss of some kind,
  • salvation from an enemy, an attacker,
  • salvation from crippling feelings – helplessness, guilt, shame…

We often hear the word salvation in relation to our sins – the situation of being estranged from God.
We are aware that we need help…
Where will it come from?

Isaiah assures us that our God is coming.
God HIMSELF is the one who will rescue us from whatever threatens us.

Is this not amazing?
God has not sent an angel, he did not ask a great prophet, or another saintly personage, to save us.
He has chosen to come HIMSELF – in Jesus – to free us from whatever prevents us from:

  • being the people he wants us to be,
  • living in close friendship with him.

God HIMSELF… I keep repeating these words and I marvel at the reality they express…
I can count on him, I can rely on him, for whatever I need to be truly the person he had in mind when he created me.

So, no fear or anxiety, only peace and serenity…
A comforting message in this period of Advent…

 

Note: Another text is available on a different theme, in French at:  https://image-i-nations.com/3e-dimanche-de-lavent-annee-a-2022-2023/

 

Source: Image: Knowledge of Him

 

27th Sunday of Year C – 2022

Most of us are in contact with many people every day.
We approach some of them spontaneously, considering them as friends.
Others, we keep our distance from them, we are not sure how we will be received.
There are some, we know that we will always be welcomed when knocking at their door.
Others, we would not go to them at any time, we feel we must choose the right moment.

What about God?
Do we approach him, spontaneously, without any hesitation?
Are we convinced that any moment is a good moment to ‘get in touch’ with him?
Or are we in doubt that we will be welcomed?
Are we afraid to go to him just as we are?

In today’s 2nd reading, we meet the apostle Paul writing to his friend Timothy (2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14).
Some of his words can help us to ‘adjust’ our way of looking on to God – enabling us to come to him in a way that is ‘just’.

  • Just seeing him really as our Father.
  • Just accepting that we are his beloved children.
  • Just trusting him, truly.

Paul writes:
“God did not give us a spirit of fear
but power, and love, and self-control.”
 
It is sad to see how many people fear God, how may do not dare to come to him with the simplicity of a child.
They may think that they are sinners and are not worthy to approach him.
They forget that Jesus came precisely for sinners – he said it openly (

).

God never asked us to be worthy, he asks us to be confident in his mercy – that’s all!

Some of us have yet to REALize this basic and wonderful reality!
May it become REAL indeed!

The last line of the reading tells us how this is possible…
“…with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”
 

Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/27e-dimanche-de-lannee-c-2022/

 

Source: Image: Oak Grove Church of Christ

 

6th Sunday of Year B – 2021

We are often told that we should turn to God.
We should come to him in all kinds of situations and pray to him for all our needs.
And, of course, many writers and preachers tell us HOW we should do this.

Today, I choose to reflect on HOW NOT to do so.
I personally believe that we should NOT turn to God with fear, hesitation, shame or doubt.

We should NOT be afraid that he is too far above or too far away to listen to us.
We should NOT hesitate to turn to him thinking that he is not concerned about our problems.
We should NOT be ashamed of our failings and failures of all kinds – they will not bother him.
We should NOT doubt that he is compassionate and merciful.

What confirms me in this conviction is the gospel text of this Sunday (Mk.1:40-45).
Here comes a man afflicted by a shameful disease – that man is a leper.
The rule in his society is that he should keep away from everyone,
as we see in the 1st reading (Lv.13:1-2,45-46).

Jesus is a respected religious leader and he is an outcast.
Yet, this leper is not afraid or ashamed, he does not hesitate or doubt.
He asks Jesus to cure him, and Jesus does so without delay!

Why do we not do the same with our difficulties, problems and, possibly, even our shameful situation?!

 

Note: Another reflection on a different theme is available in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/6e-dimanche-de-lannee-b-2021/

  

Source: Images: sharesonofgod.com

3rd Sunday of Easter, Year A – 2020

The scene of the disciples on the road to Emmaus, today’s gospel (Luke 24:13-35)
offers many interesting aspects for reflection.

One especially retains my attention; the text says:
“Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; 
but they were kept from recognizing him. »

Many writers have been speculating on the cause of this:
what was it that prevented the disciples from recognizing Jesus?
What caused them to be blind in this way, unable to see that the man walking with them was Jesus?

Different commentators have proposed different reasons.
As far as their explanations are concerned, the usual expression can be used:
‘On this matter, the jury is still out.’
In other words, nobody knows for sure! 

The reason why this verse keeps me thinking does not belong to exegesis.
It is more personal, much closer to ‘home’, one could say.
The question then becomes formulated in a different way,
and it is addressed to me directly:
‘What is it that prevents ME from recognizing Jesus in my own life?

What prevents me from perceiving Christ, the Risen Lord, present with me from day to day?
What is the cause if this unusual blindness,
this failure to be aware of the obvious presence –
even though hidden from the eyes of my body?

An impediment of what kind?
An obstacle of what sort?

Fear of seeing something within myself that I would prefer not to see?
Shame for something of the past which I do not want to acknowledge?
Inattention? Indifference?

Perhaps simply forgetfulness?
Whenever I walk alone on whatever road or path, perhaps I could find out?…
 

Note: A video presentation of this scene can be found at: https://youtu.be/4QwKU442-80

And another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/3e-dimanche-de-paques-annee-a-2020/

 

Source: Image: Catholic online

6th Sunday of Year B

It happens that we find ourselves in a situation of need.
It may be for a service, we may wish to ask for a lift, or we may want to borrow an item of some kind.
More urgently we may require some information, or we may need advice.

We then wonder to whom we will go to present our request.
A neighbour, a colleague, a friend, a relative?
Usually, before addressing ourselves to the person, we remind ourselves of his, or her, character.
We may also recall such occasions, in the past, when we asked for help and… what kind of response we received.

The fact is that we may be afraid that our request will not be granted.
The assistance we need may not be forthcoming.
We may be told that the person is too busy, is not able, has too many commitments already, etc.

Has it happened to you very often that when you asked someone for any kind of help, the person replied: “Of course, I will help you!”
In my own experience, this is not the usual reply…

But with God, things are different.
His ‘reply’ is somehow the ‘matter of fact’ type!
As if he could not refuse, as if it goes without saying that we will receive what we need!…

This is the message that today’s gospel text gives us (6th Sunday of Year B – Mk.1:14-20).
A man comes to Jesus suffering from a shameful disease: leprosy.
As the 1st reading told us (Lev.13:1-2,45-46), such people were to remain far from others, they were somehow outcasts in the Jewish society.
The fear of contracting and spreading the disease was paramount.

The leper tells Jesus: If you want to, you can cure me.”
The reply of Jesus comes spontaneously and without delay: “Of course, I want to!”
And the man is cured there and then.

It may be good to remind ourselves that when the ‘if, perhaps, maybe’ are spoken…” they always come from our side…
God’s vocabulary does not seem to include these words…
With him it is: “Of course, I want to…
To help, to cure, to comfort, to free, to guide, to answer you whatever be your need.

Really? You can but try!

Source: Images: manaogbasilica.org   Prayer for Special Help

 

International Day of Peace – 27 September

Each year the International Day of Peace is observed around the world on 21 September. The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.

The theme for 2017 is “Together for Peace: Respect, Safety and Dignity for All.”

The theme honours the spirit of TOGETHER, a global initiative that promotes respect, safety and dignity for everyone forced to flee their homes in search of a better life. TOGETHER unites the organizations of the United Nations System, the 193 Member States of the United Nations, the private sector, civil society, academic institutions and individual citizens in a global partnership in support of diversity, non-discrimination and acceptance of refugees and migrants. It was initiated during the United Nations Summit for Refugees and Migrants on 19 September 2016.

“In times of insecurity, communities that look different become convenient scapegoats,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. “We must resist cynical efforts to divide communities and portray neighbours as ‘the other’. Discrimination diminishes us all. It prevents people — and societies — from achieving their full potential.” He added, “Together, let us stand up against bigotry and for human rights. Together, let us build bridges. Together, let us transform fear into hope.”

This year, the International Day of Peace will focus on engaging and mobilizing people throughout the world to show support for refugees and migrants. Its messages will be shared with communities hosting refugees and migrants as well as people concerned that refugees and migrants may bring physical and economic insecurity to their lives.

The Day will highlight solidarity with refugees and migrants and showcase the shared benefits of migration to economies and nations, while also acknowledging legitimate concerns of host communities. Ultimately, it will be about bringing people together and reminding them of their common humanity.

Source: Text & Image: UN

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

 

 

Pentecost, Year A

“The doors were closed (‘locked’, says another translation) in the room where the disciples were for fear of the Jews.”      

Have you ever been really afraid?
If so, you surely remember the experience!
In a threatening situation, it seems we can’t think straight!
We try to figure out the best course of action but it eludes us.
We may sweat profusely while debating whether fight or flight is the best option.

Fear can be a very powerful inhibiting element.
It can paralyze us in a strange way.
It can prevent us from doing or saying what we would want to do or say.

While the disciples were hiding behind closed doors, Jesus comes to them and we are told:
“The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord.”
The situation is completely transformed: fear has given place to joy – the joy of feeling secure.
This security is given by the presence of the Lord now with them.

Then, Jesus breathing over them says: “Receive the Holy Spirit…” (Jn.20:22).

On today’s feast of Pentecost we, too, are meant to welcome God’s own Spirit. 
He is the one who will enable us to overcome our fears of all kinds.
He is the one who will free us from paralyzing anxieties and crippling worries.

The security and peace we long for, he is the one who can give them to us.
We need only ask, as Jesus has told us repeatedly in the texts of the Easter season.
Indeed, we need only ask… it is that simple!

Source: Image: Discerning Hearts

International Human Solidarity Day – 20 December

« Global problems require collective solutions. At a time of divisiveness on many key global issues, from armed conflict to forced migration, people need to turn toward each other in common cause, not away from each other in fear. » — UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon

This year’s celebration of Human Solidarity Day comes after leaders of the world adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which is a new, inclusive development agenda — succeeding the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) — to eradicate poverty, protect the planet and ensure dignity for all.

The new SDGs agenda is centred on people & planet, underpinned by human rights and supported by a global partnership determined to lift people out of poverty, hunger and disease. It will be thus be built on a foundation of global cooperation and solidarity.

International Human Solidarity Day is:
a day to celebrate our unity in diversity;
a day to remind governments to respect their commitments to international agreements;
a day to raise public awareness of the importance of solidarity;
a day to encourage debate on the ways to promote solidarity for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals including poverty eradication;
a day of action to encourage new initiatives for poverty eradication.

Source: Text & Image: UN