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24th Sunday of Year B – 2021

The gospel texts are sometimes comforting and encouraging.
At other times, they are demanding and… more than a little challenging

The text for this Sunday (Mark 7:28-35) belongs to this challenging category!
We are told that:

“He (Jesus) began to teach them (the apostles) that the Son of Man must suffer many things… be rejected…
that he must be killed…”
 
The perspective of such a future for their Master is surely disheartening for the apostles.
No wonder that Peter, the leader among them, protests and even tries to have Jesus change direction!
I expect that some of us would have been inclined to do the same…

It is natural to try and avoid whatever is painful, whatever causes hurt and provokes fear and discouragement.
The problem is that our attempts are so often shortsighted.
To follow this course of action may end up by depriving us of something absolutely… wonderful.

The sentence printed above is still incomplete – following the words: “he must be killed…”
the text continues with: “and after three days rise again.”

So often, what happens in our lives is that:
we see only the negative,
we focus only on the possible hurt,
we envisage only what goes against our desires…

We fail to broaden our perspective to see what will follow the… ‘must’ –
to perceive all the great things that God has prepared for us.

Of course, to take up one’s cross –
a very personal, intimate, demanding denial of oneself –
this would be more than we can cope with…
if we were left to ourselves.
But we are NOT.

Christ is with us, he who has walked this way before us.
And what he has lived through is awaiting us also: “rise again.”
Rise to a life of unending happiness!

 

Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/24e-dimanche-de-lannee-b-2021/

 

Source: Images: thirdhour.org   Bible.com

18th Sunday of Year B – 2021

In the 1st reading of today’s celebration (Ex.16:2-4,12-15), we meet people greatly annoyed and showing clearly their discontent.
They grumble about their situation and reproach their leader, Moses, for having taken them where they are.

Their attitude is quite surprising:
We would think they would rejoice at having been freed from slavery and all its misery.
But they now regret their previous situation where they could enjoy bread and meat.

And in a parallel text they will even lament:
also the cucumbers, melons, leeks, onions and garlic” (Numbers 11:5).

Fast forward to the 21st century, to ourselves… and our own regrets!
Regrets… We all have some and for different reasons…

            • Failure in a business venture due to laziness.
            • Cherished goals not pursued through a lack of perseverance.
            • Dreams abandoned without reflection.
            • Repeated broken relationships out of selfishness.
            • Missed opportunities in many areas of life.
                • Dissatisfaction with the present when the past was so much better, it seems…

The ever-present temptations lurk in the dark area of our hearts:
lamenting, complaining, grumbling against others, searching for a scapegoat to escape responsibility…
All these will certainly not bring us to the ‘promised land’ – the land of serenity and happiness.

God is ready to give us what we need to sustain us on the way.
As he did for the people of Israel, he will provide us with whatever will enable us to keep going on the way.
He, himself, assures us:

“Then you will know that I am the Lord your God.”

 The assurance of his presence should be enough to renew our confidence and restore our peace of mind.

 

Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/18e-dimanche-de-lannee-b-2021/

 

Source: Image: Joanne Viola  

Baptism of the Lord, Year B – 2021

Questions are asked of us throughout the day and every day.
Some are about minor things, or small matters, and they require little thinking.
Other questions are about more serious aspects of our lives
and we may need to pause before we give an answer.

Of course, much depends also on… who is asking the question.
What about if it is… GOD who is asking us questions?!
Because he does ask us and these questions reach us personally and intimately.

In the text of the 1st reading today, God’s question is addressed to us through the prophet Isaiah (Is.55:1-11).
We hear him say:

Why spend money… and your labor on what does not satisfy?”
 
This question may reach us when we did not expect it and yet…
it involves something that touches us closely:
our money, our labor, ultimately, our choices and our values.
In simple words: What do we live for?
From what do we expect to find satisfaction, in fact: where do we look for happiness?

After questioning us, God invites us:
“Give ear and come to me; listen, that you may live.”
 
At the beginning of a new year, this invitation opens up for us the path to follow –
to listen to the Lord and find the path to LIFE, a life full and meaningful.

Personally, I believe that if this is what God offers, it is the best that can truly SATISFY us.
 

Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/bapteme-du-seigneur-b-2021/

 

Source: Image: Pinterest

Feast of Mary, Mother of God, Year B – 2021

During this festive season of Christmas and the New Year, we exchange good wishes, all kinds of them.
Phone calls, Christmas cards, emails, messages on Messenger or Twitter
all the platforms are good If they serve our purpose:
that of sending to others our wishes for their health, happiness, success, and other good things in plenty.

But do we exchange blessings?
Some of you may be surprised at this question… Blessings?
But… what are they really?

Some would define them as gifts, opportunities, benefits, good luck perhaps…
Others would describe them as an intervention that will bring a sense of well-being, of contentment.
All this is true but…

If we pay attention to the 1st reading of today’s feast (Numbers 6:22-27),
we should admit that something is missing in the definitions above and that is… God’s touch!

Yes, a blessing is not only some pious wish, or words expressing the desire of good fortune for someone else.
A blessing is a call on God himself to intervene in favor of someone,
in other words: to give as only God can give!
 
A blessing is a gift from God himself.
The text says that God will be ‘gracious’ to the person blessed in his name,
and the ‘grace’ that God gives is… himself!

This is what he has done in Jesus, the new-born we see in Mary’s arms.

What else could we desire, or ask for, that would satisfy us truly?
This blessing enfolds all others!
And, the amazing thing is that God wants so much to give it to us that… he wants us to ask for it!

God BLESS YOU!

Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/fete-de-marie-mere-de-dieu-annee-b-2020/

Source: Image: ibelieve.com   deseret.com

12th Sunday of Year A – 2020

In prayer, saints of all times have said all kinds of things to God – at times surprising things!
You wonder…
Think of St. Philip of Neri who, with his usual sense of humour, would tell God:
“Lord, beware of Philip, before the day is over he could have betrayed you!”
 
At times, what is said to God is very exacting, it is demanding indeed.
It is the case with what the prophet Jeremiah says in the 1st reading (Jer.20:10-13).
He tells God:

“To you I have committed my cause.”
 
In other words, he has entrusted to God whatever is of concern to him.
When we think about it, what is most of concern to us if not… ourselves!
Whatever touches us deeply, whatever involves our own selves, this is our ‘cause’.

Our thoughts, from moment to moment.
Our secret desires and most daring hopes.
Our hunger for success and recognition.
Our search for rewarding experiences.
Our eagerness to reach cherished goals.
Our striving for achievement and self-fulfilment.
Our longing for deep and lasting happiness.
Our craving for true love and companionship.
Our constant need of forgiveness…

All this is part of our very selves, it is all included when I pronounce the word ‘I’.

But there is also, we cannot forget or deny it, the more ‘shadowy’ part of us…

Our problems and difficulties.
Our bitter regrets and guilt feelings.
Our painful memories.
Our disappointements and misfortunes.
Our failings and failures.

And for each one of us , the list could go on, and on…
All this is part or who we are, part of what is called our ‘cause’.
Like a jigsaw puzzle with countless pieces that have all to fit together so as to offer a beautiful picture.

Dare we say to God, as Jeremiah did:

“To you I have committed my cause”?

If not, what is the alternative?…
Especially in this period of pandemic when so much is unknown, unsure, unpredictable…

 

Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/12e-dimanche-de-lannee-a-2020/

 

Source: Images: Microsoft   istock

Feast of Mary, Mother of God, Year C

During this festive Season we have been exchanging good wishes of all kinds. We wish one another good health, happiness and peace, and many more good things. We sometimes summarize them in telling people that we want for them God’s blessings.

The first reading of today’s celebration (Nb.6:22-27) is, in fact, an extended blessing. The text tells us that God himself has chosen the words of it, so to speak.

One expression, repeated in the Psalm that follows (Ps.67:2-3,5,7-8), says:

“May God be gracious to you.”

The word ‘gracious’ evokes the picture of someone who is pleasant, kind, cordial, ready to help. Another definition comes to mind in the words: “filled with God’s grace”.

We are used to the language of religious faith and the expression ‘God’s grace’ is very familiar to us. Perhaps too familiar… we may no longer be aware of its deep meaning.

We may be in danger of seeing ‘grace’ as a ‘thing’, a gift from God, yes, but something different from himself.

In fact, it is the very essence of God, the very way God is for us, towards us… in us! God could not be otherwise!

God wants to ‘grace’ us, that is to share with us what he is so that we may become ever more as he is. This is the very meaning of the feast of Christmas that we have been celebrating.

One of the Fathers of the Church, saint Irenaeus, (c.120-200) said:

“God has become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself. »

This is the extent of his graciousness!

 

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

 

17th Sunday of Year B

Let us say that you go to borrow from your neighbour some cooking oil to cook a dish. Does it happen often that instead of giving you the small amount you ask for, the neighbour gives you a much larger quantity? Or, if a man goes to a colleague to borrow some special glue to repair something, does he expect to be given an extra tube on top of the one already started? This is rare among us people. We hope for help but not often do we meet with outstanding generosity.

I said it is like this “among us people”, but with God things are different. Today the 1st reading and the gospel are similar in giving us a good example of how generous God is with us. Through Elisha God says: “They will eat and have some left over.” And the same thing happened at the time of Jesus. We see Jesus concerned about people having nothing to eat.

He asks one of the apostles where to buy bread but he is testing Philip who replies: “Five loaves and two fishes, what is that between so many?” Jesus took them, said the blessing and “gave them out to all who were sitting ready, giving out as much as was wanted.” With this huge crowd, we would think it enough if each got a piece of bread. But God’s way is the generous way. They all ate as much as they wanted!

Look at God’s generosity in nature: we sow a few seeds and get bags of cereals. Look at the fruit trees heavily-laden with juicy and sweet fruits. God does not know how to count! God does not know how to measure. Or rather, he counts and he measures according to his love which is without measure. God gives and gives, always beyond our hopes and above our expectations. He gives us more health, more healing, more strength and more help. He blesses us with more joy and happiness, more success and good fortune. He grants us more peace and more security. All those good things we long for, he gives them “as much as is wanted.” 

As you read this, you may have doubts thinking of the prayers you made in the past and you say: ‘I asked God for that and he did not give me more of it, in fact he did not give it to me at all!’ This is possible, God does not give us always what we ask for. But have you found out what other gift – perhaps much greater – he gave you instead? A gift more precious than you could have dared to ask for. Think about it…

We heard in the gospel: “Jesus knew exactly what he was going to do.”He could have worked the miracle without asking for anything but he wanted to use the loaves and fishes from the small boy. God wants us to do our share, he wants us to work with him. At times, we ask God for this and that but we, ourselves, do nothing to make our desires come about. He is still ready to work miracles but he wants our efforts at pleasing him and turning to him in prayer. He needs that little something that comes from us.

Source: Image: Free Bible Images

International Day of Happiness – 20 March

What is the International Day of Happiness? It’s a day to be happy, of course! Since 2013, the United Nations has celebrated the International Day of Happiness as a way to recognise the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world.

In 2015, the UN launched the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that seek to end poverty, reduce inequality, and protect our planet – three key aspects that lead to well-being and happiness. Last year, the Smurfs rallied behind the 17 Sustainable Development Goals for the International Day of Happiness.

The United Nations invites each person of any age, plus every classroom, business and government to join in celebration of the International Day of Happiness.

Source: Text & Image : UN

The day recognizes that happiness is a fundamental human goal, and calls upon countries to approach public policies in ways that improve the well-being of all peoples.

By designating a special day for happiness, the UN aims to focus world attention on the idea that economic growth must be inclusive, equitable, and balanced, such that it promotes sustainable development, and alleviates poverty. Additionally the UN acknowledges that in order to attain global happiness, economic development must be accompanied by social and environmental well-being.

Source: Text: timeanddate.com Image: UN

 

13th Sunday of the Year, A

“FIRST THINGS FIRST”!
We hear these words from time to time.
They usually come from someone who has a lot to do already and to whom someone may ask to do something more…
The person may feel that too many tasks demand his attention, too many commitments claim her time and energy.
There is the obvious need to set priorities and, yes, to decide what should come first!

I would say that this Sunday (13th, Year A) is the day for doing exactly that: set priorities!
In fact, it is Jesus himself who asks us to do so and in no uncertain terms! (gospel: Mt.16:37-42).

His message is demanding, exacting, challenging!
We are to… stretch ourselves beyond the here and now.
We must extend our concern from the present to the ever-present = the everlasting!

We want life to be brimming with happiness and success and we are asked to… let go of it.
Let go of what we are trying to reach – at times, desperately so – to receive a life “in abundance” (Jn.10:10) promised to us.

It is a promise… Some may be tempted to say: ‘Only a promise…’
Yes, but from the one who never fails to make them come true! 

Source : Images : Adobe, Pinterest

Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, Year A

Hungering for more…

Walking across the desert…
Food given as yet unknown…
Life beyond the present…
A body more than the flesh…

Hungering for more…

Something else, something more –
So much deeper, more satisfying, more enduring…

“The Lord led you in the wilderness to test you and know your inmost heart…
to test you and so make your future the happier.”   (Dt.8:2-3,14-16)
 
This is what today’s feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord evokes…
The bread – the Body – is meant for a com-union = a union with Him who wants our happiness –
something beyond all we could imagine or dream of.

“He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood
lives in me and I live in him.” (Jn.6:56)
 
THIS is… the MORE!…

Source: Images: shutterstock.com, renewaljournal.wordpress.com