4th week of Easter Living the Word

Thoughts for the week ahead… 

Where do you hear the voice of the Risen Lord speak to you this week?

How does knowing you already have eternal life impact on your behaviour this week?

Where is the Greatness of the Father evident in your life this week?

 

For Children

Take time to listen to Jesus’ voice this week.

Look out for the Greatness of the Father this week.

 

For Families

Jesus says that the sheep hear his voice and they follow Him.

How well do we hear Jesus in our day?

Choose one meal this week where you will talk about how you heard Jesus.

Maybe think about how you listen to one another: could you improve the listening?

Make the Sign of Peace at the end of your meal.

What do you think your family vocation might be?

 

Prayer (from Creighton Online Ministries)

Loving Shepherd, You love me and watch over me always, in my joys and in my pain. Help me not to be deceived by the world around me. Thank you for the great gift of your love and protection and for my faith in you, which shapes my life.

May my heart be open to an awareness of your great love and may we carry that love to those we pass each day who need it the most.   Amen.

Advent: a time of joyful waiting and Holy longing.

A year on, but the truth remains…

Advent: a time of joyful waiting, of Holy longing.

So far, this season of Advent has brought into sharp focus those for whom the waiting is not joyful…

…for those waiting for the bombs to drop

…for those waiting to fly over combat zones

…for those waiting for asylum

…for those waiting for a border to open

…for those waiting for their next fix

…for those waiting for to be evicted

…for those waiting to be made redundant

…for those waiting to die

…for those waiting to hear from an estranged child

…for those waiting for a spouse to come home

…for those waiting, waiting.

Or for the longing that seems far from Holy…

…for those longing for someone to love

…for those longing to be loved

…for those longing for a lover’s touch

…for those longing to be a priority

…for those longing for the grief to pass

…for those longing with such longing.

Advent is full of waiting and longing. And it’s the longing that I find painful, I always find Hope such a cruel virtue.

Whatever we are waiting for (and it doesn’t matter if it is good or bad), hope leaves the door open ajar when sometimes it would be easier if it slammed shut. Never to be opened again.

But hope springs eternal, and particularly in Advent.

For in Advent we await the coming of the only One that can make sense of it all…

…The One who calls us to rest when the waiting wearies us

…The One who invites us to lean on when hope seems impossible

…The One who makes all longing Holy

…The One for whom we all long, all the days of our lives.

…The One who loves us.

But we’re not there yet. And I know there is always hope, it’s just sometimes hard to find it joyful. And as for the longing!

Even when we have seen the light, heard the ancient promise and claimed it as our own.

O God, come to our aid,

O Lord make haste to help us.

Christ the King

Surprisingly I love this Feast! It is surprising because I am a feminist and in no way a Royalist. It also goes against my Irish roots and my liberal tendencies.

But perhaps it is because of the line that ‘My Kingdom is not of this world’ that I can so easily buy into the image.

Christ as King is so counter to the world’s idea of Royalty that the sense of other, the rule breaker, the questioner, inside of me can rejoice.

I also have a deep seated need to belong, to be known, to be loved in my entirety, which it is not something to be shouted from the rooftops in today’s society: a society that prides itself on privacy and independence, and values individuality most highly.  This was brought in to sharp relief this week at work.

Over the last week my work has enabled me to connect with just under 90 families as the Sacramental preparation programmes all begin.

For many of these families an extra ‘activity'(which is often how catechesis is viewed) causes a dilemma: what to give up, how to make room in an already overcrowded schedule. Our families buy into the ‘having it all’ ideology. The parents’ want their children to ‘belong’ to all forms of clubs and groups. They gladly pay into the demands and constraints that this brings in belief that these activities will enable their children to be all they can be. Yet the preparation for the Sacraments of Communion and Confirmation, which lead to full initiation into being part of the family of God, do not hold the same weight in decision making. Many of these parents implicitly question the need for catechesis…why so many sessions? Do we have to go to all of them? How many can we miss? My child can’t do that evening, can you move the sessions?

The understanding that of all the activities we could sign our children up for, nothing is more essential than Catechesis is lost. Catechesis reminds us that it is through Christ that we become the fullness of who we are called to be. That we are nothing if we do not depend on the Lord, on the God who created us. We are to centre our life on Christ our King. And therein lies the rub.

Christ the King Tapestry

Naming Christ as my King means that I willingly everyday offer my life for Him. As His citizen I answer the call to work for His Kingdom: to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, clothe the naked, visit the imprisoned. And when I fail to get it right being able to claim Christ as King means I can bow before the One who loves me. One, who as King does not force my allegiance through fear or coercion, but to whom I can give willingly my respect and reverence simply because of all that He has done for me, as a response to the way that I am loved, because I belong.

Catechesis does not yield worldly benefits which is difficult to justify to busy parents who want the best for their children. The catechist, modelling Jesus can not force attendance. Catechists desire the community to want to come closer to the Lord. But like Jesus, sometimes we have to watch as they walk away, as they are not ready to fully choose Christ, to allow Him to answer the need to belong to Him.

As catechists there is much work to be done because of course Christ is not MY King but the Universal King. We do not worship in isolation. As the Universal King, we are reminded that we are all children of God and there is nothing or no one that does not belong to Him. After the events of last week in Beirut, Kenya, Paris and Syria it is easy to encompass the victims into that idea.

Harder to see that those instigating the attacks are also loved by God, known to Him in their entirety, just as we are.

 

P.S.

I am listening to the radio as I write and the singer sings…

‘And I don’t want the world to see me,

Because I don’t think that they’d understand.

But when everything seems to be broken

I just want you to know wh0 I am’

Add to fade…

(Iris by the Goo Goo Dolls)

Living the Word
  • Where does Christ’s kingship make a difference to you this week?
  • What, for you, is the reason Jesus was handed over to Pilot?
  • Where does your life ‘testify to the truth’ this week?
For Children
  • Jesus says that His Kingdom is not of this world. What do you imagine His Kingdom to be like?
  • How might you show reverence to Christ your King this week?
For Families
  • When we pray the Our Father we pray for Christ’s Kingdom to become a reality on earth. What does that mean to you?
  • If you choose not to bow down before the Lord – what or who has your allegiance?
 

‘It is absolute fidelity to the principle defined in his own preaching that condemns Jesus. There is no other cause for his death than the love of one’s neighbour lived to the very end.’ (Rene Girard, Theologian)

Prayer

Our Father, Who art in heaven…

 

 

Your will…

And again this week the Lord asks us what we would like Him to do for us.

So they called the blind man, saying to him,
“Take courage; get up, Jesus is calling you.”
He threw aside his cloak, sprang up, and came to Jesus.
Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?”

Bartimaeus

If we are in any doubt that the Lord our God has only our bests interests at heart this should quell them. God does not look down from on high, deciding for us what is best and intervening in our lives. Rather God waits until we come and articulate our needs.

God waits.

God the Awesome, God the Ineffable, God the Immanent, God Who is and was and is to come, God the Uncreated Creator waits for us, waits for our approach, waits for us to realise our dependence. This God we can be sure will listen to us while we pour out our hearts, stand in all vulnerability and call on the Lord to come to our aid. For as we are told in the response to this week’s psalm ‘The Lord has done great things for us; we are filled with joy.’

Some friends and I have been praying the Novena to St Jude

Many of us know St Jude as the patron Saint of Hopeless cases.

Yet this novena was called St Jude the Saint who does the impossible and indeed I was invited to pray it for someone whose prayers are for the seemingly impossible. But she is not without hope and neither are our prayers so I rejoiced in this seemingly insignificant change of name.

Today is day 3 (Yes I know today is day 4!) and part of the prayer says

Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is painful and difficult for me.Pray for the impossible if it is God’s will.

Pray that I may have the grace to accept God’s holy will even if it is painful and difficult for me.

I was struck by the connection of God’s will and Jesus asking us for the last 2 weeks what we want from Him. Of course you and I know that we pray for God’s will not ours, but somehow there was a newness to this knowledge when I was at prayer this morning. There was a deeper awareness that the Lord really wants to grant our prayers for us.

Praying for God’s will, not mine, makes the praying easier. I do not need to feel unworthy if my prayer is answered in a way that I do not want (for all prayer is answered) but I can accept that the lord knows best and only works from love.

I do not believe in an interventionist God. I do believe in a God who only wants the very best for us, that we are called to be the best we can be, and that when we pray to align our will with that of the One who loves us our prayers will be answered. This of course requires us to understand, to see, that we need to trust the Lord our God in all things. To have faith that the Lord knows us better than we know ourselves.

Which is perhaps why Jesus answers Bartimaeus’ prayer but not that of James and John!

Living the Word
  • Where will you cry out to the Lord this week?
  • And again Jesus asks ‘What do you want me to do for you?’. How do you answer Him this week?
  • What is the blindness in you that needs the ‘Master’s’ healing touch this week?
Living the Word for Children
  • If Jesus asked you what you would like Him to do for you, what would you say?
  • How will you follow the Lord this week?
Living the Word for Families
  • ‘…your faith has saved you’, how does knowing you are saved change the way you live this week?
Prayer
Master,
Son of David, have pity on us.
Help us to see more clearly and follow you more nearly this week.
Amen

Living the Word
  • Where will you cry out to the Lord this week?
  • And again Jesus asks ‘What do you want me to do for you?’. How do you answer Him this week?
  • What is the blindness in you that needs the ‘Master’s’ healing touch this week?
Living the Word for Children
  • If Jesus asked you what you would like Him to do for you, what would you say?
  • How will you follow the Lord this week?
Living the Word for Families
  • ‘…your faith has saved you’, how does knowing you are saved change the way you live this week?
Prayer
Teacher,
Son of David,
have pity on us.
Help us to see more clearly and follow you more nearly this week.
Amen

Creeping back in…

I want to write in a tiny font as I creep back on to my blog and back into the inboxes of those who have subscribed.

Yes I’ve been away, you may have noticed.

After my last post, life became even more hectic than normal and coupled with what I now recognise as a long bout of depression writing was not uppermost in my mind. Or when it was my shadow soon dispelled any ideas that others may want to read any pearls of wisdom. It even went so far as to suggest that there were no pearls anyway so not to bother.

The bad spirit of course has also been hovering so that whilst I can bring my shadow in to the light, I still am plagued with lethargy and self doubt as far as the blog is concerned.

I do still write though and each week I write something called ‘Living the Word’ for my parish newsletter. It’s for adults, children and families. I also write for my first communion group and their parents too. So rather than berating myself with the stick called ‘must try harder’ and the chain of ‘perfect or not at all’, I have decided to share these weekly reflection questions based on the Sunday Gospel.

Of course I hope to write again in the way that I had been doing but until then, please accept this offering.

28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Living the Word

  • Which of the Commandments challenge you the most this week?
  • Where does the Lord look at you with love this week?
  • Where are you being invited to depend on the ‘possibility of God’ this week?
Living the Word for Children
  • Jesus loves you, how will you show that you love Him this week?
  • Imagine you are the Rich young man, what happens after you leave Jesus?
Living the Word for Families
  • How can we use our possessions for good this week?
  • Spend time choosing something that we no longer need or want and take it to our chosen charity shop this week?
Prayer,
Dear Lord,
Thank you for all that we have.
We ask that you bless us with Wisdom to use everything for your good.
Amen
 20150809_092943_HDR (1)
If you find them useful then please let me know, and next time I’ll post them earlier in the week.

Only by a thread

A couple of weeks ago I was at Sunday evening Mass and sitting a little behind me was a young mum with her 2 toddler height children. They were, to be fair a little unruly and she did a sterling job of trying to keep them contained. I turned to her at one point and smiled, trying to keep the irritation at bay (it had been a long day); I find it difficult to be irritated when I have looked the other in the eye. A short while later, I was drawn to more noise and noticed others reaction, some of whom shot daggers at her, while one woman sitting next to her, whispered encouragement and tried to distract the younger child. I overheard the mother say ‘I could cry, it’s so hard’.
Here was a woman, a mother clinging on by her fingernails. I was not sitting close enough to offer her and her children the Sign of Peace but after Communion I managed to grasp her hand as a sign of what I hoped was solidarity and compassion. She smiled a heartfelt, weary smile of gratitude.

I can remember taking my four darlings to Sunday Mass with me and some weeks it was all I could do to allow the words to wash over me. I so desperately needed to be comforted by the Word of God, strengthened in communion with my faith community. I needed to receive the Lord in the Eucharist to give me the strength to go on being a mum, let alone a good enough mum, for a while longer. Seeing her on that Sunday evening brought back the memory of when I too barely hung on by my fingernails.
Yet Sunday after Sunday I went because going to Mass was the only thing that made any sense of my life as a single mum of four under 7, my ‘failed’ marriage, my tiredness, my loneliness, my sadness.

I remembered all of this on hearing the stories in the Gospel of Mark. I didn’t just reach out and touch the hem of His garment, nor did I beg to be touched by the fringe of His cloak, I hung on with all my might, sometimes slipping to hold just a thread that I hoped would not unravel before I did.

unraveling

Of course I was not merely hanging on for dear life all the time and it did get better. I became more organised, I used to keep a bag that we only took to Mass packed with pencils and paper, pictures to colour (it was long before any Redemptorist resources!), books to read and the odd toy that did not make a noise, but the greatest and most helpful ‘distraction’ was the love of my faith community for me and my children. The elderly couple who chose to always sit behind us so as to smile lovingly at the ‘baby’ in my arms; the Religious Sister who sat in the same pew helping to ‘hold the line’ and surround all four of them in love; the other parents who would keep an eye on the others when one of mine was potty training; and the many others who made my children (and therefore me) feel genuinely welcome, wanted and loved.

Many years later one is still serving at the Altar, another trains new servers when home from University, and another is a parish music director…taking a little poetic license with the words of a Meatloaf song, ‘three out of four ain’t bad’. I have no doubt that it was because they were held in love and felt at home in our parish that they are still active members of the faith community.

So when we see mothers (or fathers) struggling at Mass, with children who interrupt our time with the Lord at Mass, let us pray for them, thanking God for their courage to come to Mass, for expending possibly their last vestige of strength in living out the Baptismal promises to bring their children up in the faith. Let us offer to help them, to welcome them, to hold them in love.

cranach-children

For if we don’t we run the risk of both denying Christ’s call to ‘let the children come to me’ and not having a Church in the future.

 

Ordinary time…again

I have resolved to start blogging again and to try to keep it going for a little longer this time! Therefore I offer once again this post from last year to start me off…

This is my daughter, the beloved, my favour rests on  you.

And with that wonderfully scary affirmation Ordinary Time begins.

I love Ordinary Time. There is a comfort in the rhythm, the same-ness; time to go deeper, to bed down, once more in routine; seeing God in the everyday, a time to hone our Sacramental Imagination.

Ordinary Time is where we live who we are, a time to live baptismally. This week I came across the following poem (with my slight adaptation!) which I loved immediately. I loved the way it challenged me to move out of Christmas, not leaving it behind but taking it with me.

When the song of the angels is stilled,
When the star in the sky is gone,
When the kings and princes are home,
When the shepherds are back with their flock,
The work of Christmas begins:                                                                                 

To find the lost,
To heal the broken,
To feed the hungry,
To release the prisoner,
To rebuild the nations,
To bring peace among brothers and sisters,
To make music in the heart.

You are my daughter, my beloved, on whom my favour rests.

How can I not work for the Kingdom knowing that? How can my baptism be in the past, something that was done to me when I was a baby?

When the Godparents have returned home,

When the white robe has been cleaned and put away

When the candle is back in its box,

The work of baptism begins:

It  is said that Martin Luther, every morning on waking said ‘I am baptised’. When I imagine this he says it incredulously for when we begin to recognise what it means to be baptised it is awe filled. We  have been named for Christ, invited to to work for Him in bringing about the Kingdom because

Rebekah, you are mine, whom I love beyond measure and my favour* rests on you.

Happy Ordinary Time everyone.

Poem: Dr. Howard Thurman was an influential author, philosopher, theologian, educator and civil rights leader. He was Dean of Theology and the chapels at Howard University and Boston University for more than two decades, wrote 20 books, and in 1944 helped found the first racially integrated, multicultural church in the United States.

*Some translations read ‘well pleased’ for favour. I prefer favour to ‘well pleased’, if God is well pleased, God can also be not well pleased. God’s pleasure is somehow to do with me. Whereas God’s favour is freely given, to all and that includes me regardless of what I do.

Picture by HeQi