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The Alphabet of Lent – Letter D

D for DISCIPLES

The expression: ‘The DISCIPLES of Jesus’ is familiar to us.
Apart from the twelve apostles whose names we know, the gospel speaks also of seventy-two disciples (Luke 10:1-24).

We imagine them listening to Jesus and following him on the roads where he walks.
Our imagination does not lead us astray: to listen to Jesus and to follow him, this is the true meaning of being a disciple.  

However, there is another aspect that is required to be an authentic disciple of Christ.
Having listened to his message and walking in his steps, we then need to live according to his teaching.

But then, something wonderful takes place.
The gospel writer, Luke, speaks about it in these terms:

“He turned to his disciples and said privately, 
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 
For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it,
and to hear what you hear but did not hear it” (Luke 10:1-24).

To be a Christian, is it not to be a disciple of Christ? Of course, it is!
Could we say that our experience following the Master allows us to see what Jesus speaks about?

Have we recognized in him the image of God made flesh?
Have we received the words that he addresses to each one of us?
Have we experienced the love and compassion that he has for us personally?

If so, then we are indeed happy!!

 

Source: Image: The Wandering Shepherd

 

 

 

International Day of Conscience – 5 ِApril


Promoting a Culture of Peace with Love and Conscience

The preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that « disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of humankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people. » Moreover, article 1 of the Declaration states that « all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights and are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood. »

The task of the United Nations to save future generations from the scourge of war requires transformation towards a culture of peace, which consists of values, attitudes and behaviours that reflect and inspire social interaction and sharing based on the principles of freedom, justice and democracy, all human rights, tolerance and solidarity, that reject violence and endeavour to prevent conflicts by tackling their root causes to solve problems through dialogue and negotiation and that guarantee the full exercise of all rights and the means to participate fully in the development process of their society.

Origins of a Culture of Peace

The concept of a culture of peace emerged from the International Congress on Peace in the Minds of Men, organized by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in Côte d’Ivoire in July 1989. Since then the promotion of a culture of peace has increasingly been seen as a worthwhile objective of the international community. The evolving concept has inspired activities at so many levels and in so many regions with the full participation of civil society that the culture of peace is gradually taking on the characteristics of a global movement.

 

Source: Text (abridged) & Image: https://www.un.org/en/observances/conscience    Photo: UN Photo/Mohamad Almahady People taking part in activities related to the Peace and Peaceful Coexistence Festival organized by the Communication and Public Information Section of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID).

 

Global Day of Parents – 1st June 2022

Appreciate All Parents Throughout the World

Since the 1980s, the important role of the family has increasingly come to the attention of the international community. The General Assembly adopted a number of resolutions and proclaimed the International Year of the Family and the International Day of Families.

Emphasizing the critical role of parents in the rearing of children, the Global Day of Parents recognizes that the family has the primary responsibility for the nurturing and protection of children. For the full and harmonious development of their personality, children should grow up in a family environment and in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.

Designated by the General Assembly in 2012, Global Day of Parents provides an opportunity to appreciate all parents for their « selfless commitment to children and their lifelong sacrifice towards nurturing this relationship. »

Greater support needed for working parents as COVID-19 takes hold

Families bear the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic. As the anchors of the family and the foundation of our communities and societies, parents have the responsibility of sheltering their families from harm, caring for out-of-school children and, at the same time, continuing their work responsibilities. Without support from parents, children’s health, education and emotional well-being is at risk. By introducing family-friendly workplace policies and practices, companies and organizations will be in a better position to promote children’s safety and wellbeing and provide systematic support to employees.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues its exponential growth, a technical note from UNICEF, ILO and UN Women on family-friendly policies and other good workplace practices in the context of COVID-19 shows that it is essential to support working families to minimize negative consequences for children.

 

Source: Text: un.org   Image: The Nonstop News

7th Sunday of Easter, Year C – 2022

Some people delight in finding unusual things, they marvel at extraordinary events.
And, in this day and age, there is plenty to satisfy their search for what is special and exceptional!
The landing of a human being on the moon ranks among such happenings.

The astronaut, Neil Armstrong, is quoted as saying:
« That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. » 

The discoveries in the different fields of science,
the wonderful achievements in medicine,
the sensational realizations of engineering,
the amazing feats of technology –
all this, and more, give sufficient reasons for astonishment.

Personally, I found another reason for astonishment…
It is recorded in the gospel text of today (John 17:20:26).
We find there the words of Jesus’ prayer at the Last Supper with the apostles on the eve of his death.

Addressing his Father, Jesus says:
“I have loved them even as you have loved me”.

And he asks the Father:
“That the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Who could have imagined such a… reality?
For it is REAL!

To think that a god – no, THE God revealed to us by Jesus as the Father – loves us
with the same love as he loves Jesus, the beloved Son!

Unimaginable! Unbelievable! Unfathomable!…
but TRUE!
Of course… we must believe it…

Belief in science?… Yes.
Belief in human beings?… Yes.
Belief in God?………………

 

Note: Another reflection, on a different theme, is available in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/7e-dimanche-de-paques-annee-c-2022/ 

Source: Images: NASA    thebottomofabottle.WordPress.com

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

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

4th Sunday of Lent, Year C – 2019

“When he came do his senses…”  (Lk.15:11-32)

Herding pigs, for a Jew, was a shameful occupation.
To a Jew faithful to the prescriptions of the Law, these animals were considered ‘impure’.
And there he was, minding pigs for the owner who did not even give him a share of the food the pigs were eating.
Could he go any lower?

He had left with his small fortune thinking it would last much longer.
But he had enjoyed it to the full until… it was all spent – nothing left even to survive.
He was hungry and there was a famine in the country so not much food around
let alone sympathy for someone like him!

Illusion, denial, escapism, – all the modern vocabulary could apply.
He needed to real-ize what he had done, what he had become, to see himself for real!
He had not much choice but to come out of his dream-like adventure and face his present situation.

It is somehow surprising that as he ‘comes to his senses’, he thinks first of all
of the fair salary and the privileged condition of the workmen employed by his father.
He remembers how life could be good at home if he had been willing to notice it.
But he seems still unaware of where this goodness came from.

He has yet to discover, to understand something of his father’s love.
For this, he must set on the return journey.
He has known need and regret, he must still experience the tenderness and forgiveness of his father.

This period of Lent gives us the same opportunity of a return journey…
if only we, too, ‘come to our senses.’
 
Note: Another reflection is available on a different theme in French at: https://image-i-nations.com/4e-dimanche-du-careme-annee-c-2019/
And, in a short video, France Doucet shares with us her insight into this parable at: https://youtu.be/cyaE_S4WqGI

One can also look at: https://image-i-nations.com/des-mains-differentes/

 
Source: Image: lds.org

Feast of Pentecost, Year B

« Each one bewildered…
They were amazed and astonished… »  
 

This is what the 1st reading of this feast of Pentecost tells us (Acts 2:1-11)
about the Christians of the first century.
Fast forward to the 21st century, our own period of Christian living,
could not this text describe us as well?
Confused, amazed, astonished, wondering…

We must confess that we try

  • to have interesting ideas,
  • to share joyful messages,
  • to speak words of comfort.

We do our best to be serene and adopt a positive outlook on life.
We want to radiate good feelings and be generally… optimistic, do we not?

But we need to admit that… it does not work –
at least not always, not as often as we would want to.
It happens that we are simply… ‘not in the mood’, as we say.
Our spirits are low and we feel downcast.
We realize that we need a change – a change of… spirit.

Could it be that we need… the Spirit of God?!
In the 2nd reading (Gal.5:16-25) Paul writing to the Christians of Galatia tells them of the fruits of the Spirit:
“Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control…”

Different from what we think, feel, see around?
Definitely!
But we cannot simply, take, grab, appropriate such attitudes –
we need to learn to… grow into them.
With some help? Of course!

But help is available, offered and freely given… if we only ask for it… yes, ASK FOR IT –
on Pentecost, and every day!

Source: Images: jw.org   memorizesciptureonthego.com

 

Good Friday, Year B

“The crowds were appalled on seeing him –
so disfigured did he look that he seemed no longer human –
… without beauty, without majesty,
No looks to attract our eyes…
A man to make people screen their faces. »

This is what Isaiah tells us in the 1st reading of today celebration
(Good Friday, Year B: Is.52:13 – 53:12).
This is the picture we are presented with today:
Someone who no longer appears to be a human being
and who certainly does not appear… to be God.
Someone people prefer not to see, someone they choose to ignore, to move away from.

What if, for the word ‘people’, we substitute the words ‘we’, ‘us’?…
Isaiah did and this is what we read:
“We took no account of him…
We thought of him as someone punished, struck by God…”

No striking feature, except that of suffering.
No attractive trait, except that of suffering.
No appealing expression except that of suffering.
A veil covering the recognition of what appears before the onlookers, confronting them.

Yet, it is a misconception to think that Good Friday is the glorification of suffering.
Some well-intentioned preachers may say that Jesus suffered more than anyone else.
We are not asked to believe this.

The martyrs of the early Christian era,
the victims of Stalin of Russia,
of Hitler of Germany,
of Mao Tsé-Tung of China,
of Pol Pot of Cambodia,
of Idi Amin in Uganda,
and closer to us, of the so-called Islamic State torturers, to name but a few –

all of them have undergone unimaginable suffering.

Good Friday is not the glorification of suffering, it is the exaltation of love
the love of God made man,
though he no longer looked like either…
A love that made him to be “pierced through for our faults, crushed for our sins.”
Indeed, “through his wounds we are healed.”
 
This Friday is indeed good if it enables us to understand what, some time before this day of ultimate suffering, Jesus has revealed to Nicodemus:

“Yes, God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son,
so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life.
For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world,
But so that through him the world might be saved.”   (Jn.3:16-17)

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

Source: Image: comforftinthemidstofchaos.com

24th Sunday of the Year A

The parable of Jesus in the gospel of this Sunday (24th Sunday of Year A – Mt 18:21-35) is well-known but, I must admit, I never get used to its… demanding message!
Simply put, the last verse says that if we do not forgive others, God will not forgive us either.
This makes me more than a little… uncomfortable!

I wonder if there is any one among us who does not find it hard, very hard at times, to forgive someone who has hurt us.

To forgive:

  • Someone who has spread false rumours against us – ‘fake news’ is a current practice!
  • Someone who has deprived us of a promotion which was truly deserved.
  • Someone who has ‘stolen’ the love that was rightly ours from a spouse of many years…

And the list could go on, every example more painful than the previous one.
The deed may have been wicked, the outcome devastating, and the wound may seem incurable.

Every time I hear, or read, this gospel text, I feel inclined to tell the Lord: “You don’t really mean this, Lord!…”
But I know well that he does…

This time, having read the gospel, I went to the text of the 1st reading (Si.27:30 – 28:7)
and… the last verse caught my attention (in the French text):

“Ne garde pas de rancune envers le prochain…
et sois indulgent pour qui ne sait pas. »

The English translation of the Jerusalem Bible simply says:
“Do not bear your neighbour ill-will…
and overlook the offence.” (Si.28:7-8)  

(The American Bible translation has: “Overlook a mistake”).
Neither of them gave the meaning I had found in the French words…
I kept searching and…

In the King James version I found this interesting translation:
Bear no malice to thy neighbour… and wink at ignorance.”

These words immediately brought back to my mind the words Jesus spoke on the cross:
“Forgive them, Father, they do not know what they are doing” (Lc.23:34).

So often, it is so…
People do not realize, they can be foolish, but not really evil.
If they truly saw and understood, if they were aware of what their words and actions do to others, then… perhaps they would not do what they do…

When I feel like telling the Lord: “You don’t really mean this, Lord!…”, it seems to me that I hear:
“Of course, not… not on your own… but my Spirit is with you to enable you to do it…”
Personally, this is the only way I can stop protesting and … start pardoning – poorly, awkwardly perhaps, but sincerely.

Source: Image: LDS