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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

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

Ash Wednesday, Year A

Last Sunday (8th Sunday of the Year, A) we were reflecting on the idea of ‘painting’- painting with colours and paintbrushes.
Throughout history people have tried to paint even… GOD – at least, what they thought God was like!
Still today, artists try to do the same.

But we said that we also ‘paint’ with words.
Describing things, situations and people and thus creating an image of them.
We said that we do this also with… GOD.
Saints, spiritual writers, religious leaders, all of them try to give us a picture of God.

At the beginning of this period of Lent, the same theme comes again.
The prophet Joel, in the 1st reading (Joel 2:12-18), is the one who gives us an idea – a picture – of… God’s personality!

The text says:
“Your God is all tenderness and compassion,
slow to anger, rich in graciousness,
and ready to relent…
Who knows if he will not leave a blessing as he passes.”
 
Simple words, a clear message, a description in human terms, with concepts familiar to us, telling us who God is. God’s character, if we can speak in these terms, is one of tenderness, of compassion, of graciousness, of readiness to forgive and forget our failings and failures.

Who would not want to experience personally such acceptance, such mercy, such love?
Only one thing is required for this experience to be ours:

“It is the Lord who speaks,
‘Come back to me with all your heart’…”

 

Source: Images: www.pinterest.com;  stedward.com

 

4th Sunday of the Year, C

Waiting at the bus station the other day, I overheard a woman telling another: « Oh, my son Simon is really ambitious! » To which the second woman replied: ‘Well, this can be good sometimes, but at other times… not so good… » The bus arrived as the proud mother of Simon kept mentioning all the good qualities of her son.

ambition, linkedin.comSitting in the bus, I kept thinking about… ambitions. Good? Not so good?

Amazingly, in the first words of today’s 2nd reading, Paul tells the Corinthians to be… ambitious!

« Be ambitious for the higher gifts. » (1 Cor.12:31)

So, this is what makes ambitions good or not so good: what we aim at, what we strive for. When people speak of ambitions, they often think in terms of wealth, reputation, influence, success in different areas of their personal and social life. Yet, often when they reach the goal they had set for themselves in any of those areas, they do not feel satisfied. Something is still missing. Perhaps it is because they have not attain what Paul calls « the higher gifts. » And Paul adds: « I am going to show you a way that is better. »

Did you notice that, in the illustration here, the word ambition is used in the singular – one can think of ONE over-riding ambition, a goal of a special kind which is worth leaving all the rest – like all the unused letters around the word ‘ambition’. Paul tells us very clearly what is the one thing we should try to achieve – we are to LOVE.

 If there is one word which is used and over-used it is this small word ‘love’! You will hear people say: « I love this film. » « I love ice cream. » « I love walking in the woods. » « I love it when you say: ‘I love you’! » But to make sure we are not mistaking the kind of love expected from us, we are given a description of it: it « is always patient and kind, never jealous, never boastful or conceited, never rude or selfish; it does not take offence and it is not resentful. It delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes. » So this is the way we are to be ambitious.

But I must admit that, every time I come across this text, I feel like saying: ‘Lord, I’ll never manage that!’ And every time too, I am gently reminded that I am not expected to manage this on my own. The One asking us to live in this way is ready to enable us to do so…

Source: Image: linkedin.com

The impossible dream…

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The celebrations of Christmas and Epiphany are now behind us. We are moving back into ‘ordinary time’… which is NOT so ordinary! As I was reflecting on this, the melody of a well-known song came back to my mind. It is that of The Impossible Dream from the film The Man of La Mancha.

You may wonder how this happened? Well, I had just come across a short text and the link was made – naturally! This is the text:

« Christianity holds that the infinite God, in the person of Jesus, at a point in time, crossed an unimaginable borderline and personally entered history. Before such an undreamable dream the intellect falters. It was a this point that a friend gave me a clue that helped my understanding more than any measure of bare reason. He sais: ‘But love does such things’. »

Source: Text: Mark Link, s.j., He Is the still Point of the Turning World, p. 25   Pic: www.pinterest.com