I am amazed at how many times the word ‘Galilee’ has resonated within me over the last few days. We heard it in the Gospel reading at the Easter Vigil on Saturday night (Mk 16: 1-7), I heard it in several “on-line’ homilies I listened to, and we heard the Gospel for today: (Mt 28: 8-15). The idea of seeing and meeting Jesus in Galilee has featured strongly in my prayer during these days also. It is not a new idea that we are now called to meet Jesus in the Galilees of our daily lives, to see him, to encounter him, and to serve him wherever we see need. In recent days we have been helping to distribute Communion at every every Mass in the parish church here in Ende. Regulations due to Covid19 have required us to do this at a slower pace than usual. This meant I had the opportunity to see peoples’ faces and their eyes and to look closely at their hands as I gave them Communion. Each time I knew in my heart that I was meeting the Risen Christ. He is with us, he is ahead of us, he is waiting for us to open our eyes and see him in others, and indeed in all of creation, now transformed by love.
The Gospel for today, Wednesday of Holy Week (Mt 26: 14-25), is fraught with tension. As Jesus had predicted, Judas betrayed him. Peter was yet to make his threefold denial, but we know it is coming. I know I have no reason to judge neither Judas nor Jesus because I know only too well the betrayer and the coward that lies within me. I pray each day for the grace to stay close to Jesus and to overcome temptation. Thankfully, we have a Christ who is full of compassion and understanding, there is hope and forgiveness for all of us.
I cannot even begin to count how many times I have read today’s Gospel – the story of Jesus’ anointing at Bethany: John 12: 1-11. On this occasion I found I was paying keen attention to Mary. She stood out for me in a new way as she poured the precious oil over Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair. Today, I saw Mary act powerfully as she anointed Jesus in thanksgiving and also prophetically as she prepared him for his death. My breath stopped, like that of everyone in the story, as the significance of her action hit home. It was an act of pure love and of total poignancy.
Today I celebrated Palm Sunday in a parish in Ende, Flores. We had a wonderful celebration despite certain limitations due to Covid19. I felt we were really able to capture the joy of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem. It was great to be part of a large congregation and even though we were ‘socially distanced’ we were ‘as one in prayer and spirit’. I hope it will not be too long before churches all over the world will be open for prayer and for a whole variety of celebrations.
I have recently initiated three big collaborative projects. They are all projects which I could have worked on alone (or at least I could have led them and enlisted help), and each one of them has meant that, having initiated the project and presented an idea, I have had to let go of control and efficiency in favour of collaboration, ownership and community building. Sometimes I find myself getting impatient whilst we have meetings to get everyone on board or wrestle with misunderstandings, but mostly I feel joy in building something with other people who want to do good.
Reflecting on the experience I recognise that each of these projects has led me to a greater sense of generosity and openness to difference. The process of working together has helped my friendships to deepen and I have found a profound generosity in wanting the best for the group.
Collaborative working isn’t always easy but it requires us to build community and that changes our perspective.
I am deeply touched by the Gospel for today, Sunday 21st March: John 12: 20-33. It seems to me that it is an invitation for us to give our lives for the sake of the Gospel and in service of God. I gained in my understanding of this text from the homily of Bishop Greg Homeming of Lismore Diocese, Australia. He said that when he was made Bishop he made the simple choice “to not do anything to run away from where God has placed me.” I heard the words of that not-so-simple choice as a way to be faithful to God’s call to us, even when that call is a challenging one. I pray that we can all follow the example of Bishop Greg and chose to claim the call God gives us.
I have had meetings with various groups this week and time and time again have had the opportunity to listen to some beautiful sharing. The groups were for persons of different ages and they ranged from young people to those of a more senior age. Each time I was touched by the depth and honesty of what each person shared. It came to me that one common theme that ran through every meeting was the joy that came from connecting with others. The other day I saw on the news the reunion of a woman with her elderly mother. They had been separated since the onset of Covid19. As I heard her say “I’ve got you Mum” my eyes filled with tears at the sheer beauty of this deeply moving encounter. I was reminded of the great power of human love to heal and comfort those in need. The times are still hard and many people are still isolated and lonely. Let us not forget those who need us to make contact with them.
In order to listen and respond to the action of God in my life I am continually invited into the somewhat challenging relationship of trust in God’s love for me. If I am to respond to what I perceive as God’s prompting, I need to have a sense that God’s plan and intention in my life is a loving one. Well that sounds easy! Of course in theory we believe in God’s infinite love and mercy, but when we have to rely on God’s personal love and care for me it can be a lot more challenging!
Trust involves risk.
To grow in trust in our relationships we need to be able to move outwards from a solid base. The more rooted and content we are in our own skin, the more accepting we are of our weaknesses and able to see in them an opportunity for growth rather than approach ourselves with a judgemental attitude, the more able we are to believe that God also loves, forgives and guides us.
As we gain a greater understanding of the reality of our lives, and the context in which we are trying to discern God’s action, we come to a greater freedom from which we can trust the movement of God’s Spirit in our life and respond with openness, generosity and trust.
This question asked by Jesus in the Gospel reading of Wednesday 3rd of March has haunted me over the last few days. I found myself reflecting on where I have seen people saying “Yes” in recent times and was surprised to discover many examples of this. What follows are just a few of them: the religious sister on her knees shielding young demonstrators from armed riot police; the medical staff and other key workers risking their lives every day to serve others; the courageous people trying to free those trapped by human trafficking; and journalists who risk attack and even death to bring the truth to us. It dawned on me that there are many examples of those who have said their “Yes” in the face of danger and even death. I hope that in ‘drinking the cup’, day in and day out, in small and larger ways, by putting others ahead of myself, I too will say “Yes” when that day comes for me. I hope that this is the answer we will all give.
The word discernment can at times take on almost mythical qualities – people talk about ‘doing a discernment’ or say ‘I am discerning’ in a way that suggests that when this particular period of discernment is over they are going to have achieved the answer and will be able to make the right decision. If only life were that easy – a simple exchange – I do X and Y and then all works out perfectly.
The passage from Hebrews gives us some perhaps deeper insight into what discernment is – an engagement with God, and in particular an engagement with God’s word which is both ALIVE (read: living, present, encounterable) and ACTIVE (read: doing stuff, involved, still engaged). The passage also suggests that this WORD of God can be found within the fabric of our lives and who we are. Our inmost thoughts, feelings and intentions are bound up in what it means to discern.
In the next few posts on discernment I invite you to move into a reflective stance, to become aware of listening attentively to how the word of God is moving you, and to how you wish to respond to God’s presence and action.
NB In April (from 21st) we will be hosting a 4 week programme for young adults on the theme of Discernment. If you are interested in participating message us for details. FCJ Centre St Hughs