V. The Angel of the Lord declared unto Mary.
R. And she conceived of the Holy Spirit.
Hail Mary, full of grace,
The Lord is with Thee;
Blessed art thou among women,
And blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, Mother of God,
Pray for us sinners,
Now and at the hour of our death. Amen
V. Behold the handmaid of the Lord.
R. Be it done unto me according to Thy word.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. And the Word was made Flesh.
R. And dwelt among us.
Hail Mary, etc.
V. Pray for us, O holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
LET US PRAY
Pour forth, we beseech Thee, O Lord, Thy grace into our hearts, that we to whom the Incarnation of Christ Thy Son was made known by the message of an angel, may by His Passion and Cross be brought to the glory of His Resurrection. Through the same Christ Our Lord. Amen.
31st August - Faith
We are blessed with so many gifts from God, and one especially is our Faith.
It is based on the solid foundation of a lavish God who cares for all his creatures, especially those made in his image. Added to this is the death and resurrection of His Son.
The examples and the memories of our Good God and Loving Saviour touching our lives are also always there for us to recall and strengthen us - especially in dark times.
That is why I love this prayer I came across recently. It is more than a prayer, it can serve as a meditation for a longer period.
24th August 2015 - Mary MacKillop
On the 8th of August we celebrated the Feast of our only Australian Saint, St Mary of the Cross MacKillop. She wrote many letters which contained so much wisdom and depth of Faith. I would like to quote the following:
“When storms rage, when persecutions or dangers threaten, I quietly creep into (the Sacred Heart’s) dark abyss; and securely sheltered there, my soul is in peace, though my body is tossed upon the stormy waves of a cold and selfish world”. Mary MacKillop, Feast of the Sacred Heart, Letters to Sisters (1907)
What a wonderful way to express how she experienced the compassionate God in Jesus!
Mary also came to know and understand the generous love of Jesus who sought out the sick, the outcast, and the poor. She knew how he welcomed the lost, those who had no one to care for them and how he ate with sinners.
This compassion of Jesus for others called forth compassion within Mary MacKillop. She became open to people of all faiths and backgrounds and lived her life in the service of others, particularly young people in country towns needing education and outcast women and homeless men. Mary and her Sisters, in human ways, expressed to others the compassionate love of Jesus.
A good question for me to think and pray about is ‘How do I respond to God’s compassionate love?’
17th August 2015 - Finding God
Having reflected a little on the importance of a desire for prayer and a desire for God, I thought I would offer you a rich and beautiful quote of Fr Pedro Arrupe SJ. He was the Father General of the Jesuits and died in 1991. From all reports he was a very wise and holy man. I believe if anything could convince us about continuing to search for and find God, it would be this quote.
Nothing is more practical than finding God,
that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute and final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination,
will affect everything.
It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning,
What you will do with your evenings,
how you will spend your weekends,
what you will read,
who you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in love, stay in love,
And it will decide everything.
10th August 2015 - Desire for God
As a desire for prayer is very important, so is a desire for God. They are very closely aligned.
A desire for God leads us more deeply into God. On the 22nd of July we celebrated the Feast of St Mary Magdalen. She is a great inspiration for us to desire and seek God.
The scene outside Jesus’ tomb on Easter morning portrays this strong desire of Mary. (Jn 20:1-2, 11-18)
The Apostles had left the tomb but Mary stayed wanting to find Jesus.
Her grief at not being able to find or see him expresses her deep desire for Jesus.To the one she thought was the gardener she said, “Sir, if you have him taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.” Again a powerful desire for Jesus comes through.
When Jesus called her by name she recognised him. The great joy and delight she experienced and the way she clung to him again shows her strong desire for and loves of Jesus.
Pope Gregory the Great has this to say about Mary Magdalen, “She had already sought and found nothing. But she persevered, and therefore found the object of her love. While she was seeking, her longing grew stronger and stronger until at highest pitch it was allayed in the embrace of Him whom she was seeking. Holy desires grow with delay; if they fade through delay they are no desires at all.”
3rd August 2015 - Desire for prayer
How often I hear from people words like “I can’t pray well - I used to when I was young, but not now - I am more easily distracted now etc….”
In answer to my question, “Do you think of God?” I normally get the answer, “Quite often during the day!”
In fact many people make short sharp prayers throughout the day. They lift their mind and heart to God often. The old name for these short prayers was ‘aspirations’.
This leads me to a better question to ask people. “Do you desire to pray?” I am sure we would answer a hearty ‘YES’ to this.
Well the great spiritual writers of all time assure us that the ‘desire to pray’ is God’s special gift, a prayer in itself. I will quote just two.
St Augustine: “Your desire is your prayer; if your desire is constant, your prayer is constant”.
St John Chrysostom: “You should not think of prayer as being a matter of words. It is a desire, and incredible devotion, not of human origin, but the gift of God’s Grace”.
So apart from a strong desire to pray being in itself prayer, it will lead to a growth in our relationship with God and Jesus and therfore to a deeper prayer life.
27th July 2015 - The Will of God Pt 4
The last verse:-
The Will of God will never take you,
Where the comfort of God cannot dry your tears,
Where the Word of God cannot feed you,
Where the miracles of God cannot be done for you,
Where the omnipresence of God cannot find you.
More beautiful words to reflect on and which express so truly our wonderful Faith.
20th July 2015 - The Will of God Pt 3
The third verse:-
The will of God will never take you,
Where the love of God cannot enfold you,
Where the mercies of God cannot sustain you,
Where the peace of God cannot calm your fears,
Where the authority of God cannot overrule for you.
More nourishment for the soul!
13th July 2015 - The Will of God Pt2
The second verse of this poem or hymn is:-
The Will of god will never take you
where the spirit of God cannot work through you.
where the wisdom of God cannot teach you,
where the army of God cannot protect you,
where the hands of God cannot mould you.
More food for the spirit!
6th July 2015 - The Will of God Pt1
Last week I quoted the saying from a dear old Irish Josephite Sister. I have since found out that it comes from a poem or hymn from an unknown (but obviously very wise and good) author.
I quote the whole of the first verse for you to reflect on and chew over this week.
The Will of God will never take you,
where the Grace of God cannot keep you,
where the arms of God cannot support you,
and the riches of God cannot supply your needs,
where the power of God cannot endow you.
29th June 2015 - God’s Grace
At various times in life I am sure that we get to a stage wondering whether we can cope. We get ‘stretched’ as it were, beyond the normal.
This can result from things that happen to us or that we are asked to do because of the responsibilities or role we have in life.
What has helped me and so many others is what a dear old Irish Josephite Sister I knew, used to say and live by;- “The Will of God will never take you, where the Grace of God cannot keep you”.
22nd June 2015 - Gift of the Holy Spirit
Last week we reflected a little on the unfathomable love of Christ for us all.
What helps me appreciate Jesus’ love a little more is to think of and pray about all that Jesus did for us, since love is shown by deeds.
There is just so much that Jesus did and does for us. One great expression of his love is the gift of the Holy Spirit.
In these recent weeks I have been administering the Sacrament of Confirmation to the many young children in our schools. It helps me also to focus on and to draw a little closer to the great gift of the Holy Spirit.
It is important to remember as we begin each day that the Holy Spirit dwells within each of us as a temple. Where the Spirit is there also is Jesus and the Father.
A good practice is to open our hearts each day to the power, love and working of the Holy Spirit. A good way to do this is to daily say the short prayer I encourage the Confirmation Candidates to say, “Holy Spirit be my friend, be my help and guide today”.
15th June - the Sacred Heart of Jesus
Last Friday, the 12th of June, we celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart.
In the Letter to the Ephesians the writer prays, “I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love. I pray that you may have the power to comprehend, with all the saints, what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. [Ep3:16-19]
The love of Christ is wider and longer, higher and deeper than we could imagine.
When we speak of love we often use the image of the heart. No wonder Jesus did therefore in those apparitions or special experiences St Margaret Alacoque [1647- 1690] had of him. Because of this we commonly now speak of Jesus’ Sacred Heart - referring to his unlimited love for us.
Since the love of Christ is so wonderful, immeasurable and incomprehensible we need to pray as the writer of Ephesians did, for a deeper understanding of it.
A suitable and compact prayer from of old would be ‘O Sacred Heart of Jesus burning with love for me, enflame my heart with love for thee’.
8th June - The Feast of the Most Holy Body & Blood of Christ
On Sunday I celebrated Confirmation for my first school group of the year. We also celebrated this special Feast, what we used to call ‘Corpus Christi’.
At the Celebration I took time to speak of the power of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s connection to the Eucharist.
It was by the power of the Holy Spirit that Mary conceived our Saviour - God’s Son. ‘TheHoly Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God’. Lk1:35
It is also by the power of the Holy Spirit that we have the gift of Jesus in the Eucharist. In the Eucharistic prayers the priest, holding his hands over the gifts, calls down the Holy Spirit to change and transform them into the Body and Blood of Christ.
Because the Eucharist is truly the ‘Bread of Life’, Jesus nourishes us and strengthens us for, and through, the Journey of Life.
Jesus is in the Eucharist not only for us and our needs - as he gives himself to us he is also saying, ‘Give yourselves in love and service to others as I have done.’ - “This is my Body GIVEN for you….my Blood POURED OUT for you….”.
Jesus does more. Each Eucharist he strengthens us to do that, to give of who we are and what we have, cheerfully.
Each Mass Jesus also gives us more of the Holy Spirit - another great gift and power both to help us in our needs, and to strengthen us in serving others.
How blessed and gifted we are in life and in what God calls us to.
2nd June - the Blessed Trinity
The other day as we were talking about the Trinity, a Parishioner said to me, “The sign of the cross is a favourite prayer of mine”.
“Yes”, I agreed, “It is so simple, yet it sums up everything”.
The cross we trace over our bodies is a powerful sign of Jesus our Saviour who gave his life for us on the cross and so expressed so truly his words, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. (Jn15:13)
It is also an act of Faith in God who is Father, Son and Spirit - God the Trinity.
More than an act of Faith, it is saying to ourselves that we are ‘In God - in the Trinity’.
Through being Baptised in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit we are as it were plunged into the Trinity. The word Baptism means ‘To be plunged into’. Just as we are plunged into water, (as we know the early Christians were and some still today are totally immersed) we are at the same time then plunged into the Trinity.
Plunged into water highlights how we are in God. Even better than the example of water is air. It is all around us and we actually breathe it in. This brings home how God is not only all around us but within us as well. We are certainly temples of the Blessed Trinity.
No wonder that Parishioner claimed the sign of the cross as a favourite prayer. It is so simple and yet so profound.
25th May 2015 - The Feast of Pentecost
A favourite prayer of mine, ever since Seminary days is:-
Oh guide our minds with your blest light,
With love our hearts inflame;
And with your strength, which never decays
Confirm our mortal frame.
It is the fourth verse of the very traditional and beautiful hymn ‘Veni Creator Spiritus’ - ‘Come Holy Spirit’.
For me in a short prayer it says so much and sums up so much.
‘GUIDE…with your blest LIGHT’ - in life as we plan, work things out, are faced with difficulties and problems and issues to be resolved, we do everything that we can. We think things through, we get information, we talk with people getting their advice and wisdom.
We have within us also the wisdom and knowledge and understanding of God the Holy Spirit. Do all the other things because the Holy Spirit works through our gifts and those of people. Also, and necessarily, do call on the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
‘With LOVE…..INFLAME’ - the Holy Spirit is the very love of God - the love between the Father and the Son. This love, is at it were, ‘personified’ in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the source of all that love, the giver of love. Therefore let us go to the source of love when we want love to grow - the love of God and love of others.
‘With your STRENGTH….. never decays, CONFIRM…’ - the Holy Spirit is also the power of God. There is no need to talk about the many times in life that we need strength. There is no need to remind ourselves of our mortal frame - and of its many weaknesses.
Therefore let us keep turning to the Holy Spirit also for the strength we need to face each day, to live, to love and to some good.
With the guidance, love and strength of the Holy Spirit we are also truly equipped to bring the “Joy of the Gospel’ to others.
18th May 2015 - Feast of the Ascension
Over the last six weeks we have in one way or another grown closer to our Risen Lord - in prayer, in reflecting on the Gospel passages of his Resurrection and his following appearances and words to his disciples, and in the Sunday Eucharist.
In the Ascension that we celebrated on Sunday, our Risen Lord is taken up into heaven. He who had come from the Father now returns to the Father.
St Augustine has some simple and yet powerful words for this- ‘Christ, while in heaven, is also with us; and we, while on earth, are also with him. He is with us in his godhead and his power and his love; and we, though we cannot be with him in godhead as he is with us, can be with him in our love, our love for him’.
Our Risen Lord certainly is still with us. His power continues to work in and through us.
At the same time Jesus connects us, and everything we do, to our goal - to heaven.
In other words, while our feet are firmly planted on the earth, as we live and love and work, all that we do links us to the sure hope and goal Jesus has given us of our eternal home.
11th May - It’s okay to have doubts
If anyone shows us how a person can have strong doubts and yet come through these doubts to a lively and strong Faith, it is Thomas the Apostle.
Remember the evening of the Resurrection, after Jesus had appeared to the Apostles when Thomas was absent? On his return when they all excitedly told him the news, “We have seen the Lord”, how he had said, “Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe”. (Jn 20:25)
“I don’t believe you!” was his very strong response. You can imagine how stunned they were and would have wondered, “How could he not believe?”
Thomas would have had his reasons. You could almost hear him saying, ‘Well, you people didn’t believe it when Mary Magdalene said she had seen the Lord. I don’t believe it when you say you saw him. That’s it’.
What he would have been thinking would have been something like this, ‘I know we have to have Faith. But Faith doesn’t come from other people telling you. If Jesus is risen, I need somehow myself to experience his presence.’
Thomas would still have been searching and obviously open to Faith. It’s the same for us. When we have doubts, and yet an openness like Thomas, Jesus will surprise us.
4th May 2015 - The impact of belief in the Risen Lord.
We cannot imagine the reality of the Resurrection. Knowing the Risen Lord requires Faith - and we all have that.
I often wonder though, why does not this faith in the Risen Lord with us and working in us, impact on me more and people more?
Before I say anything - I do believe this Faith we have does impact on, does have an influence on our lives, more than we will ever realise.
What can I do to open myself up more though to the power of the Risen Lord? I think we need to be patient over a long period of time.
Take for example a good marriage. Recently I spoke to 91 year old. His wife had died some years before. He still spoke fondly of her and said “Bishop, I was just so blessed with my wife in my marriage”. What a tribute to his wife. What a tribute to their good relationship.
This fond relationship would have developed over the whole of the fifty one years of their marriage. I am sure that it happened in the ups and downs of their lives, in the good times and bad, through their joys and sorrows.
Faith in Jesus and growing to know and love him, our ‘Crucified and Risen Lord’, takes a life time.
So let’s continue patiently day by day, coming to know Jesus in the Gospels, in prayer and in the good people around us.
It would be good as well to ask for the Grace to believe in and appreciate and love him more.
27th April - Things will be better for us.
In John’s Gospel 20:17, once Mary realises that Jesus is there, she embraces and holds on to him in joy.
Jesus says not to hold on to him, because he has not yet ascended to the Father.
He is telling her not to hold on to the past as it were. It is not as if after his death, now that it is over, he has come back for a visit. His death was a ‘passing-over’ to a transformed life with God. He can now be present to us by sending his Spirit upon us.
This is good news for us too. I am not disadvantaged by not having seen Jesus in the flesh. He is now present to me wherever I am. I can access him any moment of any day, because he is within me. He has given himself fully to me, through sharing his Spirit with my spirit.
20th April - Mary Magdalene takes time to come to Faith in the Risen Jesus.
As we read John 20:11-16 and see the process Mary Magdalene goes through before she recognises the Risen Lord, there is comfort and encouragement for us.
Firstly she sees the empty tomb and thinking that Jesus’ body has been stolen, she runs immediately to convey this message to the Apostles.
After Peter and the beloved disciples leave the empty tomb. Mary stayed there weeping. On seeing Angels in the tomb she immediately says to them that someone has taken away Jesus’s body.
Then when she notices the man whom she thinks is the gardener, she says, “Sir, if you have taken him away tell me….”.
Not until Jesus says ‘Mary’ does she recognise him as ‘Rabbuni’ - ‘My dear teacher’.
Mary always had a great Faith in Jesus as well as a great love for him and yet here in this scene she actually meets him, and doesn’t recognise him.
She believed in him. She loved him deeply. But she had allowed the despair she felt at losing him to overwhelm her and cloud her eyes of Faith. She had seen him often restoring hope to people lives but she failed to grasp the fullness of that ‘hope’ for her own life.
I can talk to our Risen Jesus now and say “Lord, I do believe, help my unbelief”. Could I also say “Lord, remove the things that cloud my eyes from seeing you when you are really present”.
13th April - Believing without seeing
Let’s go back again to the empty tomb on Easter Sunday morning, John 20:1-10. It speaks volumes to us who believe. As Jesus said to doubting Thomas, “You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet believe”. (Jn 20:29)
From the empty tomb we can turn to the present day. Where is our Risen Lord now whom we cannot see?
We don’t have to go far. All we need do is go within ourselves. There our Risen Lord quietly resides and has done so for years and years. A young niece of mine once told me, “Uncle, you go into your heart room and you can talk to Jesus there”. We can say to him there, like Thomas the Apostle, “My Lord and my God”.
Likewise as we look at people around us, we can look more deeply and see the Risen Jesus there.
When we read and reflect on the Word of God, particularly the Gospels, we again meet our Risen Lord.
On the cross St Thomas Aquinas said that at least we could see Jesus’ humanity. In the Eucharist, not only is his divinity hidden from us but also his humanity. Yet with St Thomas Aquinas we can say we believe you are there Risen Lord. At the Consecration, we can look at the elevated host and say with another saint, Thomas the Apostle, ‘My Lord and my God’.
Every time we make acts of Faith like this, our Faith in our Risen Lord grows.
6th April - The rich Season of Eastertide
Jesus speaks to us in so many ways. One clear way is in the voice of his Church.
The Church in her wisdom says to us, that the core of our Faith, the Paschal Mystery, which we have just celebrated and been immersed into again this year, is so deep and profound that we need more time to drink it in. We need a life time really to drink it in as much as we can humanly. God and his Church now provides us with these fifty days of Eastertide. Let’s embrace them with generous hearts.
This week alone, this Octave of Easter, is rich with gospel accounts of appearances of the Risen Lord. The Church uses them as Gospels each day for Mass:-
Mt 28:1-10 Jesus appearing to two women.
Jn 20:11-18 Mary Magdalen and the Risen Lord.
Lk 24:13-35 The Disciples on the road to Emmaus.
Lk 24:35-48 The Apostles in Jerusalem
Jn 21:1-14 By the sea of Tiberius.
We would do well to read and reflect on some of these passages, so that our Faith in our Risen Lord will grow - as it slowly did for the Apostles and Disciples.
This week please go back also to Sunday’s Gospel Jn20:1-19. It is a very important one. There is no presence of Jesus here - only the empty tomb. Yet in this Gospel Peter and John come to Faith.
This is very important for us. We don’t ‘see’ Jesus. Often our experiences are of the ‘empty tomb’. Yet at these times, when we stay there quietly in prayer, our Faith in the Risen Lord will grow. We will grow to believe even more without seeing.
29th March - Jesus speaks to us from the Cross
As we celebrated Palm Sunday and the triumphant entrance of Jesus into Jerusalem, the Church has us listen to and reflect on the Passion and Death of Jesus. This year the Gospel was from Mark.
We already know that in a week’s time we shall be celebrating the Resurrection. Hearing the full story of Jesus’ suffering and death on Palm Sunday cautions us not to try and get ahead of ourselves. It is the caution of the Church who puts the Passion narrative before us each Palm Sunday. It is really the caution of Jesus himself. We may be tempted to try and take a short cut to glory. Victory certainly beckons, but it will not be ours before we have accompanied Jesus on the way of the Cross.
In John 12:32 Jesus says these extra words “When I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself”.
No wonder St Teresa of Avila many years ago said, “We always find that those who walked closest to Christ are those who had to bear the greatest trials”.
Teresa in a lighter moment in talking to Jesus said, “No wonder Jesus you have so few friends if you treat them like this!”
Jesus doesn’t just draw us close to himself to share the Cross. He does so most of all to show and share his deep love for us - to unite us more closely with himself and the Father and to unite us in love with each other.
Let Jesus speak to you from the Cross.
22nd March - Jesus speaks to us of the big picture.
Through Sunday’s Gospel, John 12:20-33, we are already drawn into Easter - which is not only Jesus’ Resurrection but also his Death.
St John writes his Gospel in the light of the Resurrection. So we hear Jesus say, (even before his Passion and Death was to take place) “Now the hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified”.
Well St John is strong on Jesus as Divine. He does not neglect however Jesus’ suffering and dying. In the same Gospel Jesus says, “Now my soul is troubled” and “Unless a wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but if it dies, it yields a rich harvest”.
So Jesus is telling us, that yes the goal is glory, yet the pathway to it, for him and for all of us, is through the Cross. Yes there is life and life forever; however we get to it by dying in small and big ways.
This is the big picture. This is the core of Jesus’ life and of our Faith. We can only understand our lives in the light of this. We need to look through this lens to make sense of life and in whatever happens.
To put it in the words of Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation, the Joy of the Gospel paragraph 36, “In the heart of the Gospel, what shines forth is the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ who died and rose from the dead”.
16th March 2015 - Jesus' words in John 3:16
We are indebted to Nicodemus, a Jewish Leader, who came to Jesus by night. He had been influenced by Jesus obviously, and he wanted to talk more with him in private.
In the process Nicodemus was able to listen to important things Jesus shared with him. Because of what he heard we are now able to hear such things as “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life”.Jn 3:16
These words, which sum up so much of the love of God for us and the work of Jesus, gave hope to Nicodemus. We are grateful that they have been conserved by John as well as the following verse, “Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” Jn 3: 17
These words have given so much hope to millions of people down through history - as well as to ourselves.
They were given to us again in last Sunday’s Gospel. We can become so used to them they run the risk of being taken for granted.
Someone like Pope Francis brings these words alive. He is, while ordinary and ‘a sinner’ as he describes himself, a very special human image of Jesus. He has a big love for everyone - especially the poor, the needy, the frail, the prisoner, the homeless, the outcast. He gets the message across that we are all, no matter who we are or what we have done, welcome with God. Pope Francis does not judge nor condemn but lifts up.This is good and helps us appreciate a little more of what Jesus is saying to us.
The best way though of appreciating Jesus’ words is to sit quietly in prayer - listening to these words, teasing them out, letting him speak more to our heart.
9th March 2015 ‘Jesus crucified’ speaks to us
Just yesterday, the Third Sunday of Lent, we had a few valuable words of St Paul in Chapter One of his First Letter to the Corinthians.
Ever since his life changing encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, he set out to passionately share the Good News of Jesus, to whom he had been so strongly attracted.
While, as he said, “The Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom”, he chose not to go down those paths. Instead he chose to preach a crucified Christ, despite the fact that for the Jews it was an obstacle they could not get over. The concept of ‘God dying’ was a blasphemy for them. For the non-Jews or pagans on the other hand it was madness. They could not see the sense of it.
Why did he choose to preach Christ crucified then? He knew that only this could touch people’s hearts. Only this could convert people. Only this could inspire. In fact as St Paul says that to those that did believe, a crucified Christ is both the power and the wisdom of God.
Jesus Christ on the cross shows the power of God. It was on the cross that he took on sin, evil and death. While it crushed his human body for a little while, Jesus in fact, by dying, conquered all of that and gained life for us - life without end.
Jesus on the cross also shows us the wisdom of God. When people are sick, suffering, alone, rejected etc. those who believe in Jesus can see the wisdom of all that he went through. It’s then that we know we have a God-made-man who was like us in all things but sin. He has been there. In his humanity he knows what we are going through. He has experienced it all before us and has real empathy for us. As God he can also strengthen us at these times.
So our crucified Lord speaks to us of the power and wisdom of God. He also speaks to us of immense love. “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends”. (Jn15:13)
Much food for thought, reflection and prayer.
2nd March 2015 - Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus
We have just heard the Gospel of Jesus Transfiguration on Sunday. The Church every year, no matter what cycle of Readings, always has an account of the Transfiguration on the Second Sunday of Lent - in the early stages of Lent.
In this event God the Father very clearly says, “…to listen to him”, and that is what we are trying to do in these brief reflections this year.
As we turn to Jesus here, we ask why he showed Peter, James and John a glimpse of his Divinity, shining through his humanity. It was to show these same three, who were to see him agonising in the garden of Gethsemane, that there was more to him than a man suffering terribly. In case they didn’t remember, a few days later Jesus’ Resurrection would remind them of this reality.
So what was Jesus saying to them? ‘Look at me. Go back to the experience you had of me on the mountain. It will give you the full picture. It will give you heart.’
In the letter to the Hebrews we are told to “Keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, who leads us in our Faith” (Heb 12:2)
I believe Jesus is saying to us, ‘Keep your eyes on me as I suffer in my passion and death on the cross as well as contemplating me Risen and in Glory’. Depending on the situation and occasion, we can focus on one or the other. Both speak to us. In other words Jesus speaks to us in both these situations as he has done to millions of good people down through the centuries.
23rd February 2015 - Listening to Jesus on the First Sunday of Lent
At the beginning of Lent we remember that although it is the Church who provides this Season for us, it is Jesus who speaks to us.
For the First Sunday of Lent this year in the few short words of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is saying something very important to us.
“The Kingdom of God is close at hand”. Think of the old Irish saying, “The help of God is as close as the door”. God is closer to us than you could ever imagine.
God is near to us - nearer than we would ever know humanly. Recently I saw a saying of St Teresa of Avila who lived in the sixteenth century and was the real founder of the enclosed Carmelite Sisters - a mystic, a great contemplative and a Doctor of the Church. She said, “God never takes his eyes off you”. God more than a parent gazing at their child, gazes at each of us, moment by moment, with unlimited love.
Jesus continues, “Repent and believe the Good News”.
All this and much more is Good News. And ‘repent’ means change your thinking, turn right around (180 degrees as it were) and really believe this.
As we go through Lent, following a little of plan of prayer, almsgiving and penance, let us keep this great truth and Good News in mind. God sees all that is done in secret and is close with his love and strength.
16th February 2015 - Listening to Jesus at the beginning of Lent
As we keep listening to Jesus, especially through his Word, he will not only speak to our minds but even more so to our hearts.
Jesus speaks to us also through his Church. And the Church puts before us at this time the great season of Lent.
Lent 2015 is new. It will be similar to others, but it will be different. I am in a different space this year. Circumstances in my life are somewhat different.
What is Jesus saying to me this Lent?
Take time to read, reflect on and pray about the Gospel for Ash Wednesday (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18) on prayer, fasting / penance and almsgiving.
From this listening, this prayer, write down a simple plan for Lent.
9th February 2015- Listening to Jesus
In case we need any convincing about the importance of listening to Jesus, let me quote God the Father’s words in the episode of the Transfiguration.
The Transfiguration is recounted in all the synoptic Gospels. In it God gives Peter, James and John a very special experience of Jesus’ glory as the Son of God. John’s Gospel doesn’t quote the Transfiguration because his entire Gospel is about Jesus as the Son of God.
I quote the Father’s words, “This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him” (Mk 9:8). “This is my Son, the Beloved; he enjoys my favour. Listen to him” (Mt 17:5). “This is my Son, the Chosen One. Listen to him” (Lk9:36)
To add to my question last week “What are the ways I know of listening to Jesus?” I ask this week “How am I listening to Jesus?”
2nd February 2015 - Listening to Jesus
I was away for most of January on Retreat and holiday. I trust and pray that the New Year has begun well for you. I ask God’s blessing on you, your families and all your undertakings this year.
Recently I was reflecting and praying on a passage from John 4:22-30. In it some were concerned that people were leaving John and going to Jesus.
This gave John the Baptist the opportunity to repeat again, “I myself am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent in front of him”.
John goes on to speak of Jesus as the ‘Bridegroom’ and himself as ‘a friend’ of the Bridegroom and says this, “The Bridegroom’s friend, who stands there and listens, is glad when he hears the Bridegroom’s voice”.
It made me think ‘What a wonderful attitude! Listening to the Bridegroom’s voice - listening to Jesus - is not only important, but it also brings joy’.
So let’s spend this year listening to Jesus. We all do it in so many ways. I will offer a few things along the course of this year which I trust will help.
There is no doubt, listening to Jesus regularly will bear untold fruit. It is the occupation of not just a few weeks or even of a year, but of a lifetime.
We can begin this week by asking ourselves “What are the ways I know of listening to Jesus?”
Bishop's Thoughts will cease until Feb 2015...
Mary helps us prepare for Christmas
In the Fourth Sunday of Advent the Church always places Mary before us as a person who can best help us prepare for her Son’s birth.
It stands to reason. Because God’s son came to us through Mary, she is the best placed person to help us encounter her Son.
Keep close to Mary in thought and prayer over these last few days in preparation for Christmas.
As we keep using that beautiful prayer, “Come Lord Jesus”, we might extend it a little and say to Mary, “Open me up more to Jesus. Open my heart more to him so that I may give him a warm welcome”.
15th December 2014 - Stray Sheep
Last week in one of the week day Masses we had a passage from Matthew 18:12-14. Do read it. You will notice that Matthew speaks of the ‘stray’ instead of the ‘lost’ sheep. Lost often means accidently losing the way. To stray, on the other hand, can imply deliberately roving from the course I know is right.
I am sure we can identify more with ‘straying’- deliberately leaving the right path. St Paul certainly did, but listen to his beautiful words, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners. Of these I am the foremost. But for that reason I was mercifully treated, so that in me, as the foremost, Christ Jesus might display all his patience.” (1 Timothy 1:15-16)
He sees himself as one of the biggest sinners, yet he is also very conscious of the great mercy and patience of God.
The first thing Jesus says to a sinner is not, “Why did you stray?” The first thing he says is simply, “I came into this world for you”.
Advent is an important time to turn my sin over to Jesus. There is no better way of doing this than through the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession.
If it is not your normal practice to go to confession during Advent then I would encourage you to do so. In this way we experience again that great mercy and patience of God. We would certainly be better prepared for Christmas.
“Come Lord Jesus - with your mercy and patience”.
8th December 2014 A special quality of the Saviour we await
In Advent we want to come closer to Jesus.
We might think it would help if we had a biography, even a picture of Jesus. Apart from the story of his birth in Matthew and Luke, the Gospels tell us only about the last years of his life.
We can wonder what he was like. Was he tall or short? Did he laugh much? What colour eyes did he have? Did he have a good singing voice? Etc. etc. The Gospel writers don’t tell us that because they want us to know WHO Jesus is - not what he looked like.
There is however, one human characteristic they stress - his compassion. For example Matthew 9:36 describes how, after seeing the crowds harassed and helpless, “..he had compassion for them”. Another translation would say “..his heart was moved by pity for them”.
In the Gospels when Jesus is described as having compassion the Greek word that is used means ‘a deep seated emotion from within’. We could say that this emotion comes from one’s bowels or in Australia, one’s gut. From seeing people in dire straits Jesus was led to heal and cure lepers, the sick, blind, lame, and paralysed people. It even led him to raise people from the dead. Because of this compassion he forgive sinners.
Ultimately Jesus’ compassion led him to suffering and death on the cross for us all.
During Advent it would be good to keep this wonderful quality of Jesus in mind when we spend time with him in prayer. And this is the same Lord we ask to come when we say this simple and beautiful aspiration often during Advent, ‘Come Lord Jesus’.
1st December 2014 Longing for God
This year has sped by. So many people have mentioned in conversation how this is their experience.
I suppose the pace of life is a symptom of modern times. In the special season of Advent we have just entered into, the pace of life will not slow. In fact with all the end of year activities and functions, as well as Christmas cards and shopping, the pace will only increase.
All the same it is both in regard to our Faith and our Church a very special time for us. It can be a time of great joy as we wait the new coming of Christ at Christmas 2014.
For this to happen it is important in our minds and in our Faith to keep the coming of Christ to the fore. I would like therefore to encourage a simple yet profound prayer given to us by the early Christians, ‘Come Lord Jesus”.
Such a prayer not only keeps us focused on Christmas, but even more will increase our longing and desire for Jesus. This in turn will open us up more to Jesus and all he offers us and our world. Jesus and the Graces that he does offer will colour all that happens each day, as well as all we do and plan.
We can say this simple prayer any time during the day as well as throughout the day.
“Come Lord Jesus”!