Palm Sunday – A Reflection ‘JOURNEYS’
Journeys are a frequent feature of the Bible – Old Testament and New Testament. Many come to mind quickly:
- Abraham called by God to move from home a great distance with family and possessions to experience life as an immigrant in foreign lands.
- Moses chosen to lead God’s people from captivity in Egypt to freedom.
- The People of Israel driven from the Holy Land into a generation of exile in Babylon.
- Joseph, Mary and child compelled to go from Bethlehem to refuge in Egypt.
These examples and many others spring to mind, carrying in them a reflection of the greater and wider ranging journey of all of humanity, which began with our first parents, driven from the bright radiance of Paradise into the darker and painful experiences of the outer world. This journey, like all others, has a destination: return to our true home in heaven, the new Eden, the heavenly kingdom prepared for us since the beginning of time.
Into this human pilgrimage Christ has entered. Throughout the season of Lent we have joined Christ on his messianic route through life’s temptations, challenges, rejections and sufferings. These he has taken upon himself to bring us healing, forgiveness and reconciliation with Almighty God. This final week of the holy season is a wonderful opportunity to be ever closer to the Suffering Servant. We join with him singing ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’ as he makes the ascent to Mount Sion, then descends beyond Calvary into the darkness of death and the tomb and ultimately triumphs in victory over death in the wondrous light of the Resurrection.
These final days of Lent call us to an ever deeper reflection on all that Christ has done for us and look forward to the celebration of Easter Sunday. Our journey continues, as we set our eyes on the distant horizon when we will be united forever with our risen Lord and Saviour. He calls us on. Let us move forward in confidence and faith.
CHRISTUS VINCIT CHRISTUS REGNAT IMPERAT
Lenten Reflections Week Five: A Beautiful Friendship
In the Gospel for the fifth Sunday of Lent, St John tells us that some Greeks approach one of the Apostles, saying that they would like to see Jesus. Presumably, they have heard about him and would like to meet him and get to know him.
As we enter the final weeks of Lent, we have opportunities to get to know Jesus even better; he is no stranger to us! We find him in his Word, in the Eucharist (as our church re-opens) and deep within ourselves where he dwells with the Father and the Holy Spirit. We need only meet him there, in prayer.
St Teresa describes prayer as “an intimate sharing between friends” and as “taking time frequently to be alone with Him, who we know, loves us.” How beautiful and how simple! No awkwardness or formality here! Perhaps for some of us, prayer seems to be something formal – almost as if we need to respectfully keep the Lord at arm’s length. Again, Teresa has some reassurance for us, reminding us that “the important thing is not to think much, but to love much…”
We are invited to give time, in these Lenten days, to renewing and deepening our relationship with Jesus, our dear friend.
Lenten Reflections Week Four: Letting the Light in
In John’s Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Lent, Jesus speaks about the light (himself), which ‘has come into the world’ and warns that people ‘have shown that they prefer darkness to the light’.
We are now at the half-way point in Lent – this period of Springtime, renewal and growth which the Church offers us. We have noticed, signs of Spring in the world around us – snowdrops, chirping birds and that it is lighter in the mornings and evening. The darkness of winter is lifting at last. But of course, light can bring its own challenges. The need for Spring-cleaning becomes quickly apparent in our homes but, hopefully, also in our spiritual lives.
St John of the Cross pointed out that “A ray of sunlight shining on a smudgy window is unable to illumine that window completely and transform it into its own light. It could do this if the window were cleaned and polished. The less the film and stain are wiped away, the less the window will be illumined; and the cleaner the window is, the brighter will be its illumination. The extent of illumination is not dependent on the ray of sunlight but on the window.”
To allow ourselves to be illumined and transformed by the Divine Light present within us, requires us to see and recognise our own smudges and smears – those repeated and often ingrained acts of self-will which are so much part of us that we can be unaware of them. Others can serve as mirrors for us and help us to see and to change these habits. Losing our patience, our temper, feeling irritable and discontented may all be signs that some spiritual Spring-cleaning is needed. The Word of God can stir us to desire change and new growth and the Sacraments offer us the strength to bring this about.
Lenten Reflections Week Three: QUESTIONS
In times of great difficulty and suffering some can be heard to say, ‘why has God done this to me?’ or ‘Why has God allowed this to happen to me?’. A good answer to either question presents us with a difficulty, since they represent a lack of faith. God, by his very nature, cannot bring bad things into our lives. He is all goodness; he is the Lord of compassion, slow to anger and rich in mercy. A better question might be, ‘Where were you, Lord, when this happened to me?’. A weakness in faith is seen here, but God hears our cries and we can imagine his compassionate answer:
‘I was with you at that time and I have remained with you constantly ever since. I have felt and still feel your pain; I have shared your suffering. Did I not send you my Son, so that we could share all your temptations and sufferings; to walk every step of the way in good times and bad? All I asked him to do and say he has done. He proclaimed the truths of the Old Covenant and declared the New Covenant of our love. LISTEN TO HIM’
The leading Jews of Jesus’ time asked the wrong question: they wanted to know why they could not have a miraculous sign of divine power to justify Christ’s actions. Jesus gave an instant answer: the promise of the greatest of all signs – THE RESURRECTION – achieved through his suffering and death on an ignominious cross, where all the guilt of sin and all human suffering was absorbed and defeated in his Resurrection. This same Lord God Emmanuel continues to walk every step of our Lenten journey, our minds fixed ahead to the New Jerusalem and the glorious Resurrection. In every prayer we offer, in every sacrifice we make and every good deed we do, he is our constant companion.
We can be sure that in these painful and distressing days of the covid pandemic the Lord is with us all in whatever we must endure, his healing hands stretched out to touch us.
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Lenten Reflections Week Two: How well do we listen?
Mark’s Gospel for the Second Sunday of Lent takes us to the mountain-top where we, in the company of Jesus’ close friends, witness his transfiguration; his divinity is revealed. The voice of the Father is heard, declaring Jesus to be his Beloved Son and commanding that we ‘Listen to him.’
How do we listen in the way the Father intends? Surely this listening is a special kind of listening? It requires deep attention and focus. Our world is noisy, many of our homes, busy places. So many devices emit sound – often the car radio turns on automatically as we set off on even a short journey! People have lots to say – opinions, news, up-dates; all have their place. Silence can be hard to find. At our Baptism, we became the beloved of the Father and the Divinity came to live within each of us – made us their home. To listen to the God within is simple – we need only enter into this Presence; find a quiet place, and in the silence, listen attentively to our Beloved; this is prayer – a being with the one whom we know, loves us, from within. Words are not needed but listening is.
Lenten Reflections Week One: A Tethered Bird
On this this first Sunday in Lent, Mark’s Gospel takes us into the desert where we join Jesus in his prayer, fast and temptation. Our Lenten journey begins – our opportunity to deepen our relationship with God, taking Jesus as our model. What form should our fasting take and what is its purpose?
St John of the Cross, Carmelite priest and Doctor of the Church explained that the soul which is ’attached’ to anything is not free. He compared it to a bird which is tethered; whether it be held by a rope or a slender thread, the bird cannot fly freely. Our goal in the spiritual life is to reach union with God, to be held in His love at the deepest level. Our attachments – the things and practices which bind us – hold us back from living fully and freely in the love of God.
We are invited during Lent to reflect on what our own personal attachments might be. These may not be bad in themselves but may have a hold on us – we have to see that television programme, use that device, have that drink, listen to that music, play that game, or whatever it may be. Choosing to let go of a particular attachment during the season of Lent sets us free and lets our spirit soar in the Love of God.