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31st Sunday of Year B – 2021

Today’s gospel text (Mark 12:28-34) ends with a sentence that is most hopeful:

“You are not far from the kingdom of God.”

Who would not want to be told these words?
It is truly reassuring to believe that we are not far from God.
Is it not what we want: to get closer to God, day by day?

But what if it were God who draws closer to us?
This is, in fact, what Jesus says in a text from John’s gospel –
the verse that is given to us as the response (Alleluia) to the 2nd reading:

“If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him,
and we will come to him and make our home with him (John 14:23).

It is a question of… love, yes, the very love that the 1st reading and the gospel are telling us about.

And keeping the word of Jesus, this is the way of loving he expects from us.
 
 
Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/31e-dimanche-de-lannee-b-2021/
 

Source: Image: Honest Talk with God

11th Sunday of the Year, B

The gospel accounts, especially that of Matthew, offers us many texts on the kingdom of God.
The specialists on those gospel texts discuss among themselves about the meaning of this term:
“the kingdom of God”.
They generally agree that it refers to God’s special relationship with human beings,
his presence and action among us – a presence and action accepted by people to guide their lives.

One of the parables of this Sunday (11th Sunday of Year B – Mk.4:26-34) speaks in this way:

“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land.
Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake,
The seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know.
Of its own accord, the land produces, first the shoot, then the ear;
Then the full grain in the ear.”

A few words struck me in the text: “Of its own accord…”
As if the seed had a will of its own!
Yet, mysteriously, it follows the laws of nature ‘rooted’ – literally – in the depths of itself.

The seed has no will of its own but… we do!
And our will should be … ‘in accord’ with God!
The expression is unusual, perhaps, but it is theologically true!

Our daily life and actions,
our plans and occupations,
our projects and our goals should be according to God’s will.
His presence should be the inspiration of our lives.
And pleasing him should be what we aim at from day to day… of our own accord!
Simple? Yes.
Easy? Perhaps not…
But God’s Spirit in us – the vital energy enabling us to grow – can also enable us to live in this way

Note: Another reflection is available in French on a different theme at: https://image-i-nations.com/11e-dimanche-de-lannee-b/

Source: Images: inkfish.fieldsofscience.com   VideoBlocks

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

1st Sunday of Lent, Year B

The text of Mark relating the temptation of Jesus is much shorter than that of Matthew and Luke.
Notice that ‘temptation’ is printed in the singular because Mark does not give details about this experience of Jesus.

I find this short text (1st Sunday of Lent – Mk.1:12-15) of only 4 verses quite amazing.
4 verses and… 10 themes are mentioned:

  • Baptism of Jesus
  • the Spirit
  • the desert
  • Satan
  • wild beasts
  • angels
  • proclamation of the gospel
  • Kingdom of God
  • conversion
  • faith

It is as if the author wanted to give a detailed initiation to the Christian faith in this first chapter of the gospel text!

Personally, the image I choose is that of Jesus among the wild beasts and the angels.
A man – the one who was to call himself “the Son of Man” – between beasts and angels.
Respected by the first and served by the last!

It is, for me, a very good picture of the possible outcome of temptation
the experience of a person who proves to be a true human being, a genuine child of God.
One who has overcome his/her demons under different guises,
and is in communion with all of creation!

Some practice may be needed to reach this but… this is what Lent is for, no?

Source: Image: A Plethora of Ponderings

 

Palm Sunday, Year A

It had happened perhaps two years before – a day people would remember – when the Man of Nazareth, the one they called Jesus, had fed a crowd, yes, a crowd of some 5000 people with only 5 loaves.
This sort of thing, people could not forget!

On that day, they wanted to make him king – they were convinced he was the one they had been waiting for, the one sent by God, for sure, to free them from the Roman domination (Jn.6:15).
A man who could perform such things, it was obvious that God was with him in a special way.
And, of course, the apostles would have been very happy with this outcome…
They would have responsible places in this new kingdom!

But Jesus had told them to get in their boat and cross to the other shore.
He had stayed behind to send back the crowd home and he, himself, had gone to the hills to pray (Mt.14:22-23).
They had not understood, nobody could understand, all the more so that he was often teaching about “the kingdom of God”.

He was saying that this kingdom was among them (Lk.17:21).
What did he mean then?…

And now, there he is, sitting on a donkey, surrounded by a crowd of people welcoming him as he enters Jerusalem (Mt.21:1-11).
They call him: “Son of David” – David, the greatest king of their history, so, in their minds, Jesus, his descendant, is also king!

This time, surprisingly, he does not refuse the acclaim of all those people.
Their putting down clothing on the road where he is to pass, their waving palms, their shouts of joy at his coming, –
he seems happy with this whole display in his honour.

He even sternly corrects the Pharisees who want him to make the people shut up:
“I tell you, if these keep silence the stones will cry out” (Lk.19:39-40).
 
As I look at the scene, I ask myself: ‘Why?… Why now?…’
Indeed: Why has Jesus suddenly accepted this ‘demonstration’, as if he had changed his mind!…
As if he were now ready to accept human glory and praises surging all around him.

The answer is: We do not know!
This is the simple truth, we are not aware of the reason for Jesus’ behaving in this way on that day.
Down through the centuries, the question has been asked nagging at people without receiving a satisfactory answer.

There have been speculations of all kinds, different hypotheses offered claiming that he chose to enter the city in triumph for this or that reason.
Theologians and exegetes have given some interpretations of his behaviour on that day.
But the plain truth is that nobody knows for sure!

I look at him and I ask myself… I ask… him…
When questioned by Pilate about it, he was to reply: “Mine is not a kingdom of this world” (Jn.18:36).
He had said: “The kingdom of God is among you,” sometimes translated as: “it is within you”…
Perhaps this is really where his kingdom is…

Perhaps… Maybe… Possibly…
This could be what today’s celebration is all about:
Welcoming the Lord into our lives, all the areas of our lives, all that we live and experience from day to day…

Source: Image: www.lds.org

13th Sunday of the Year, C

2092087_how-did-the-apostles-die_phoi6mn445vbbn4o2ra4kwuovmeatuw6lrlcsphco3flmkbrawuq_757x425Reading the gospel text for this Sunday (Lk.9:51-62, 13th Sunday, Year C) someone could explain with a touch of humour: “This is a mixed bag!” Indeed, we find in those few verses all kinds of ideas. More than one theme is presented to our reflection:

    •    Jesus resolute march to Jerusalem as the time of his passion draws near.
    •    The frustration of James and John faced with the Samaritans’ refusal to allow them to pass through their territory, their anger and desire to retaliate.
    •    A man’s desire to be a disciple of Jesus, perhaps without enough discernment.
    •    Two other individuals called by Jesus to follow him who make excuses for their delay and Jesus’ reply to each one of them.

As I look at the different people and the attitude of each one of them, I realize that, in fact, they represent much of what makes up our daily life: determination, frustration, anger, desire to take revenge, generosity, hesitation to commit ourselves… Yes, all this, and much more, makes up our personal experience from day to day.

What is wonderful is that God makes use of all of this to fashion us into the people he want us to become… if only we allow him to do so. No material is too coarse, no attitude is too rebellious, nobody is too unworthy – God’s grace is sufficient to transform all human experience into building material for the kingdom! Paul had assured the Christians of Rome – and it remains ever true: « By turning everything to their good God co-operates with those who love him » (Roma.8:28). Everything? Absolutely!

Source: Image: channel.nationalgeographic.com