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21st Sunday of Year B – 2021

Reading the gospel is not an exercise that always provides… comfort.
It certainly does at times, but at other times it can be rather upsetting.

It happens that Jesus questions us, and even confronts us, in a way that can be disturbing.
 This is what we see in today’s gospel text (Jn.6:60-69).
Jesus has been speaking of giving people his body as food.
People grumble about this and they say:

“This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

To this, Jesus replies:
“Does this offend you?
 
Another translation uses a stronger expression saying:
Does this scandalize you?”
 
Does it happen that God’s words offend us?
Does it happen that God’s ways, scandalize us?

Perhaps this means that… God is God and that…
we need to recognize him as such.
Long ago, he told us through his prophet Isaiah (Is.55:8):

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD.
 

Something we are in constant need to remember and…
something we need to adjust ourselves to… from day to day.

But through the words of another of his messengers, Jeremiah, (Jer.29:11)
God assures us:

“I know the plans I have for you,”
declares the Lord,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,
plans to give you hope and a future.

A hopeful future, this is what is offered to us!
And this plan gives a new perspective to God’s ways which may… offend us!

 

Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/21e-dimanche-de-lannee-b-2021/

 

Source: Images: pixabay.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

2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B

In our conversation, some words have a special meaning, they can have an impact of their own.
Usually, such words do not leave a person indifferent.
When someone says: “Trust me!” the expression catches our attention and calls for a decision: to trust, or not, the person before us…

These words came to me as I read the 1st reading of this Sunday (2nd Sunday of Lent, Year B – Gn.22:1-2.9-13.15-18).
This is, in fact, the title I would give to this dramatised account of what is known as: ‘The sacrifice of Abraham’.
The story is indeed quite dramatic and, if we did not know the outcome for having heard or read it so often, we would judge it to be rich in suspense!

“Trust me!” Yes, this is what God did not say, but what he really asked of Abraham:
a deep, unconditional, total trust in him.
God’s request must have appeared to have no meaning, at least no meaning that Abraham could understand.
Had God not promised him an heir?
And now he was to give him up in a very cruel way.

Much later, through the prophet Isaiah, God was to tell us clearly:
“My ways are not your ways” (Is.55:8).
Something we are in constant need to learn anew.

Learning to trust God, to rely on him, to surrender to him,
no matter how deprived of meaning a situation seems to be.
Wanting to understand, trying by all means to make sense of events, is a very human attitude, and legitimate also.
But we must learn to… LET GO and LET GOD as a poster reminds us!…

And the outcome can be… absolutely amazing!

Images: artcommission.me

Note: A reflection on the 2nd reading of this Sunday is available in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/2e-dimanche-careme-annee-b/

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B

Some theologians have said that philosophy is the handmaid of theology.
In other words, some philosophical reflection can lead to a deeper understanding of some aspects of the faith.

I personally think that the same can be said of psychology.
Again, I am inclined to believe that a better knowledge of our human ways of thinking, of acting and reacting,
can help us to understand God’s ways!
Of course, there is an amazing difference – a divine one!
Yet, since God made himself a human being, there must be some similarities.

I say this especially as we live – yes, LIVE – this period of Advent.
Everyone repeats that it is a season of waiting, awaiting the coming of someone, Someone with a capital S.
If we look at our human experience of WAITING, we may understand better what this season is about.

  • A wife waiting for the return of a husband gone for a long period on a research trip;
  • parents awaiting the return of a child who had been away roaming the world;
  • a mother-to-be waiting for 9 long months for the birth of her first-born;
  • a student waiting for the exam results that will mean the open door to further studies.

All of them know well what it means to wait – this desire, this longing for the event to take place.
The anxious thought that… perhaps there will be a delay, a change of plan, an accident, a failure…
The anticipation of what will take place when it does finally happen.
There is already a taste of the joy to come – the joy of being together again.

Has this human experience anything to say to our waiting for God?
A word of caution here: it is not a question of putting Baby Jesus back in the Crib – NO!
Oh, we may do this as a teaching aid to help young children understand what Christmas is about.
We do it and it is appropriate for this situation and for that reason.
But many adults protest – and rightly so – that this is not the deep meaning of Christmas NOW.

Simply said: Christmas in our time is NOT putting Baby Jesus back in the Crib –
it is allowing God to take his place at the heart of our human experience – nothing less.

And this takes some practice… it takes some preparing to accept God as God in all the areas of our daily life –
“the mountains and the valleys, the cliffs and the ridges” of which Isaiah speaks about.
This is why there is and ADVENT Season … and more, to do this!

Source: Image: commons.wikipedia.org

Note: Another reflection on different themes is available in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/2e-dimanche-de-lavent-annee-b/

and a video presentation is also offered at: https://image-i-nations.com/2e-dimanche-de-lavent-ghislaine-parle/

21st Sunday of the Year, C

luke-13-blessed-is-he-baruch-haba-bshem-adonai-until-does-god-still-punish-sin-few-saved-narrow-gate-narrow-gate-way-door-21-638I heard someone say : ‘God does not know how to count’. In any case, his way of counting is not ours. The Psalmist had understood this when he wrote: “A thousand years in your sight are like a day” (Ps.90:4) . And through the prophet Isaiah, God had told us already: “My thoughts are not your thought, my ways not your ways” (Is.55:8).

So, today’s gospel text (21st Sunday of the Year, C – Lk.13:22-30) should not surprise us when we read: “There are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last”. What does it mean? Different interpretations are offered. Personally, I like to see there an invitation to take on… God’s way of… accounting! He does not keep tabs as we do, he does not appraise situations and judge people according to our criteria.

In today’s text, we see someone coming to ask Jesus: “Will there be only a few saved?” And, typically, Jesus does not answer that question. It seems that God is not interested in… statistics: the number of those saved? The number of those ‘lost’? The number of those… mid-way???

We live in an age where statistics are very important: we gauge performance in nano- seconds! We count and we compare, we judge and we adjudge! We scrutinise and we assess! For his part, Jesus has one guideline, not to call it an… injunction! He tells us: “Try your best…”

In other words: try to take on God’s ways – God’s ways of looking at life and people, God’s ways of ‘discriminating’ – the right kind of discrimination between what is good and… what is best! And then, for us there will be no ‘weeping and grinding of teeth’ in disappointment at being left out of the on-going feast of God’s COUNTLESS blessings!

Source: Image: www.slideshare.net