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.