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Gospel Reflection – Two Or More

Jesus tells us that there is strength in numbers. Instead of stewing over the wrong someone did you, you could meet with the person and discuss the problem. This advice applies to situations at work, at home, or among neighbours. One is not only a lonely number but a dangerous number because the more you replay perceived wrongs in your head, the easier it is to lose perspective and make matters worse by blowing up at someone.

Many managers (including a few pastors and principals) seem to have the “if I just ignore it, it will go away” approach to problems. But how many of us have ever seen that approach actually work? Problems are meant to be solved and relationships reconciled. If two people can’t do that, the next step is not to retreat but to try to advance with the aid of others (co-workers, family members, friends). If that fails, then it’s time to call in the wider community for help: the Human Resources Department, the entire family, the school leadership team, the parish council. These are difficult steps, but they are meant to make rare a step that is all too common: complete disassociation from the offending party.

Two or more working together toward reconciliation discourages obstinate, isolating behaviour that leaves no room for anyone, not even God. Join the crowd today.

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Exemple

“AT HOME” WITH GOD

In last week’s Gospel Jesus reflected on two understandings of his “going away” and “return”: first, his going away in death and his re-appearance three days later as risen Lord; second, his more final departure to the Father, to return only at the end of time. The section from Jesus’ instruction that we hear today focuses upon that second, much longer period of absence.

As far as the non-believing world is concerned, Jesus will simply have ceased to exist. Believers, however, will continue to “see” him with the eyes of faith and experience his presence in this way.
In loving him and keeping his commandments, they will participate in the mutual love that unites Father and Son, both of whom will “make their home” within them. Though deprived of Jesus’ physical presence, they and God will be mutually “at home” in this sense.

In this connection Jesus speaks of ‘another Paraclete’ whom he will ask the Father to give. A ‘paraclete’ is someone who stands beside a person in time of difficulty, a supportive and encouraging presence. We might think, for example, of a highly respected person whom we might ask to go to court with us to act as a character witness. Though Jesus will no longer be physically present to carry out this role, the community will have ‘another paraclete’ in the shape of the Holy Spirit.

In the face of the world’s hostility and doubt, the ‘Spirit of truth’ will offer reassurance that what they believe and seek to live by is the most profound truth.

Fr Brendan Byrne SJ

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Happy Easter everyone,

Strange as this Easter has been, I’ve been thinking that it’s also been one of the most reflective ones I have ever experienced.

This is all thanks to you, Frs Jude and Silvio, Dcn Royden, our neighbouring priests, Geralyn, our leaders, parish staff and all who have contributed to bring us the wonderful liturgies of Holy Week; I have participated in each one of the events. Nothing happens just by chance. I am aware how much effort goes into these functions during ‘normal’ times, and can only imagine how much more demanding it has been to organise all of this under such restrictive circumstances. Thank you for sharing your talents with all of us.

As I mentioned, this has been a very reflective time for me. I shared this with some others and would like to share it with you too.

Churches all around the world are as empty and as desolate as the tomb this Easter.  But just as Jesus found his way to his friends on that first Easter morning, giving them courage and bringing them peace, this year he comes intimately into our own private homes, offering us the same gifts – courage and peace – and hope. By his grace, may we have the strength to bring these gifts to others who only see the present darkness.

Maybe the tomb wasn’t empty after all. Maybe Jesus filled it with hope – it just took us a long time to notice it.

I hope that you are now enjoying your Easter Sunday at home with loved ones, knowing that you have made what might have been a very ‘dark’ Easter the brilliant sign of hope that it actually is. Blessings,

Judy

 

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Dear Fr. Jude & Fr. Silvio,

We just wanted to say a big thank you to everyone who made the beautiful ceremonies possible;  absolutely first class in every respect!!! In particular how wonderful that all parishes combined together for the Triduum;  the collaboration of all priests in our area — so beautiful — moving, prayerful and reverent.  So proud that we are all part of something so very special.  We thank God for such authentic spiritual leadership of our priest community and Geralyn too!!  (Great to have a woman on board….) You all must have worked so hard to get it all sorted before Stage 3 restrictions!!!

Hopefully the upside of the downside has been a new and different type of Easter for us all, where we have been able to connect with God on His terms minus all that we have become accustomed to, and embrace technology to bring us together with one heart and mind.

From our hearts wishing you a blessed Easter,

Ann & Frank

 

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Exemple

Today’s Gospel begins on a disturbing note: Mary Magdalene’s discovery of the ‘real absence’ of Jesus’ body from his tomb. Later, of course, she will meet the risen Lord. But for now she can only run back, in high alarm, to Simon Peter ‘and the other disciple, the disciple whom Jesus loved’.

Her plaintive cry, ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him’, expresses both the anguish of loss and continuing love. What she fears is that some human agent (the gardener, the authorities or grave-robbers) has worked this final indignity on her beloved Lord.

Things change when Peter and the other disciple arrive at the tomb. Peter enters and sees not only the linen cloths in which Jesus’ body was wrapped but also the cloth that covered his face rolled up neatly and set aside.

The ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’ sees what Peter sees but but with a keener sense of faith. Grave robbers do not leave things neat and tidy. For him the absence of Jesus’ body is not due to human agency. It points rather to a majestic, divine resumption of life.

In his very anonymity (though traditionally identified as St. John) the ‘disciple whom Jesus loved’ stands in for all of us believers of later generations. Like him, we do not actually see the risen Lord and yet we believe. For us too, emptiness and absence need not mean failure and loss, but mysterious evidence of the divine power to bring life out of death.

 

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As we are not able to have public Masses this weekend, I am just sharing some reflections that I have written on the Gospel for the Fourth Sunday of Lent that we would have heard at Mass. It’s the second of that sequence of long readings from the Gospel of John that are particularly designed to prepare our “elect” for their baptism into full membership of the Christian community at Easter. At this time of anxiety and isolation, we certainly should not be deprived of the encouragement and strength for our faith contained in this wonderful Gospel.

The story of Jesus’ healing of the Man Born Blind is a perfectly balanced literary drama. You could make a fine school musical out it. It consists of eight separate scenes, with Jesus appearing only in the first two and the last two. Nowhere else in the gospel is he off-stage to such an extent. In between are four scenes featuring interaction between the man (or his parents) and Jewish religious leaders. The intensifying hostility he undergoes propels him on a journey of faith that comes to a climax when he falls down and worships Jesus.

The man is in fact relieved of his physical blindness very early on through the action of Jesus. But his coming to physical sight is only a symbol of the further journey that he then begins, a journey out of the “darkness” of unbelief to the discovery of the “Light of the world” in the person of Jesus. The drama follows a pattern characteristic of miracle stories in John’s gospel. There is a human need. Jesus remedies the need miraculously. But the action doesn’t stop there. The miraculous remedy serves as a symbol disclosing a far greater truth about Jesus and what he has to offer. The remaining scenes disclose this deeper truth.

There are four points in particular that I would want to make in connection with this story of the Man Born Blind.

  1. The Light of the World. This episode takes place during the Jewish festival of Tabernacles (7:2). As the feast drew to its climax, the Temple was lit up every night by great braziers placed along its walls. Its lofty elevation and that of the City itself meant that the Temple appeared to pilgrims coming from afar as indeed “the Light of the world”. Whereas God was once considered to dwell in the Temple, now Jesus has become the dwelling place of God’s presence in the world. He is now the Light of the world. The man born blind, in his personal journey of faith, becomes a model for all who come out of the “darkness” of unbelief to the Light of the world).
  2. Two Journeys. There are two journeys going on in this story. While the man born blind moves from physical blindness to physical sight and beyond this to spiritual enlightenment, another party—variously called “the Pharisees” and “the Jews” but basically consisting of the religious authorities—moves from physical sight to spiritual darkness and unbelief. A feature of the literary artistry of this drama is the way in which it juxtaposes these two journeys going in opposite directions, one ascending to the Light, one descending into darkness—like two cable cars working up and down a mountain. The cable cars, of course, are not meant to touch each other. Unlike them, however, it is precisely the interaction of the parties in this story, that provokes and stimulates the former blind man’s growth—both as human being and as a person on a journey to faith.
  3. The question of Sin becomes central. In the opening scene, the disciples, seeing the afflicted man who has been blind from birth begging by the wayside, ask Jesus whether his blindness is a punishment for his sin or that of his parents. Their harsh and unfeeling question simply assumes the conventional view: physical affliction is divine punishment for some evil that the sufferer—or his family—has perpetrated. Jesus will not have a bar of this view. The man’s blindness is a mystery. But whether he is blind or not is not the main issue. Jesus, in fact, in a very physical way, quickly heals him of his blindness. Much more important is the way his character and his faith in Jesus develop in the long remainder of the story.

    The authorities also regard the man as a sinner—at first because of his affliction but even more so later because he will not bow to their authority and their disputing the facts of the matter. Beyond this, they regard Jesus as a sinner because he performed a fairly physical ‘work’ of healing on the sabbath. When the man points out over and over again the difficulty of regarding someone who can work such miracles with the obvious assistance of God as a sinner, the authorities simply remain in their stubborn refusal to face facts. Eventually, standing on their dignity and invoking their authority, they have recourse to verbal and physical abuse. In the end they simply drive the man away.

    In all this they, too, are shown to be on a journey—a parallel journey but one in the opposite direction. They refuse to come to the Light lest their deeds be exposed as stated by Jesus earlier in chapter 3:

    16 “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.

    17 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. 18 Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. 20 For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. 21 But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God (3:16-21).

    In the end, the authorities have to accept Jesus’ pronouncement that they in fact are both “blind” and sinful.

    This is where the irony of the episode comes out: they considered the man sinful because he was physically blind. In the end, though they can physically see, they are spiritually blind—and, in contrast to physical blindess, spiritual blindness is an indication of sin. Their sin, as Jesus says, ‘remains’ (v. 41).

  4. Faith and reality. One of the most attractive features of the episode is the way in which the character of the man in fact seems to grow, both on the human and spiritual level, as the story unfolds. Continually questioned about Jesus, he never goes beyond the evidence; he simply sticks to the facts and draws conclusions only as they are forced upon him. His journey into ever deeper faith and understanding of Jesus is a journey into ever more accurate perception of reality in every sense of the word.

    His adversaries, on the other hand, realising that they are losing their grip on the situation, resort more and more to denial of the obvious facts. Their desperate stratagem of summoning and browbeating the man’s parents backfires badly. In the end, they can only resort to unfounded accusations, personal abuse and appeal simply to their own authority and status.

    In this respect, I believe the sequence makes the attractive point that faith, religious belief, is not make-believe; it goes hand in hand with perception of reality.

    Less attractively but perhaps even more importantly, the sequence makes the point that religion can bestow authority on leaders who are more concerned to preserve their authority and status than to care for those over whom they are placed. This can lead to blindness, wilful or not, to reality; it can lead to harsh judgement and rigorous application of religious law in contravention of more basic values. In short, it can lead to a flight from rather than towards the ‘light’. The application towards the Church’s present situation in regard to its handling in former times of the scandal of sex abuse is obvious.

The Second Reading, from Ephesians (5:8-14) chimes in beautifully with the story told in the Gospel. The last sentence has long been understood as an extract from a very early baptismal hymn that the Pauline author cites, reminding his audience of how their baptism has brought them from—the darkness of sin—to live now as children of the light.

At the Easter Vigil, the Church lights and venerates the Paschal Candle as a symptom of the risen Christ, as Light of the world. Each of the newly baptized is given their own candle lit from the Paschal Candle as a symbol that they have come to the light and should henceforth live as ‘children of the light’, their journey through life lit by the light of faith. Sadly, it is likely that the Covid pandemic will prevent the public celebration of this beautiful ceremony this year. As we read—perhaps just by ourselves, perhaps in our families or small groups—the Gospel for this Sunday, it will remind us of the candle we received at our baptism, ensuring that our lives would be lived in the light of Christ. Along with our fellow citizens—and indeed the world as a whole—we have to journey through the “darkness” of this pandemic. Let us do so confident that the light we have received will light our way and help us to be “lightbearing stars” (to use Paul’s words to the Philippians [2:15]) in our own time and place.

Brendan Byrne, SJ
21-22 March, 2020.

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Exemple

In the Gospel story the blind man’s physical disability is relieved in the opening scene. But his journey to the light (of day) in this physical sense is only a symbol of a much longer journey that he then begins: a journey out of the darkness of unbelief to discovery of the Light of the world in the person of Jesus.

While Jesus’ role in the episode is crucial, he appears only at its beginning and end. In between, the healed man—and his parents—engage in a battle with the religious authorities. These constantly strive to get him to deny the truth of what Jesus has done for him. Far from discouraging him, however, the intensifying hostility only propels him on a journey of ever growing faith, that comes to a climax when he falls down and worships Jesus.

An attractive feature is the way the man’s character emerges as the story develops. Questioned about how he came to be cured, he never goes beyond the evidence; he simply sticks to the facts and draws the inescapable conclusions. His journey into faith is a journey into ever deeper perception of reality.

The adversaries, on the other hand, resort to denial of the obvious facts, then to unfounded accusations and personal abuse. Finally, they appeal simply to their own authority and status. While the man comes to the Light, they—despite their physical ability to see—journey to the darkness of sin and unreality.

Going in opposite directions, the two journeys dramatically illustrate two responses to Jesus as Light of the world.

Fr Brendan Byrne SJ

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Exemple

The Gospel for today (if the longer version is read) contains all three “Parables of the Lost” from Luke 15. Each focuses upon a person who loses something personally precious and who then responds in what seems a foolish and extravagant way: leaving ninety-nine sheep to fend for themselves while going after the one who is lost; turning the house upside-down to find a small coin; running out to welcome home a son who has ruined and disgraced the family. The final act in each case is a summons to a joyful communal celebration.

Jesus tells the parables to defend the welcome he is giving to “tax collectors (social outcasts) and sinners” and his festive celebration of their being “found” or “re-found” by God. What he doing is simply an earthly reflection of a much greater celebration going on in heaven.

Taken together, the parables show that, as far as God is concerned, the chief issue is not so much sin and its forgiveness but the loss and then the recovery of human beings, who are so precious in God’s sight.

The third parable, commonly but somewhat inadequately known as “the Prodigal Son,” introduces a further character, the older brother. His behaviour shows the difficulty human beings have in coming to terms with such a vision of God.

True conversion is not just a matter of turning from overt sinfulness (like that of the younger brother). It can also mean confronting resentment at God’s generosity to others. What human beings might be thought to “deserve” does not control the action of God.

Fr Brendan Byrne SJ

 

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Exemple

On the 4th of January 2019, Fr Jude and I joined Fr Mario and parishioners of St John’s, Heidelberg for a Mission Immersion.

We were greeted warmly by the Paulist Missionaries and shared their hospitality, prayer life and ministry.

Initially, I was apprehensive about going with a growing fear of the unknown but this was quickly overcome by the strong bond and friendships developed during the Immersion experience and the deep desire to reach out to those in need.

The experience captured for me the inspiring ministry of the mssp community both in Manila and Bataan, other religious orders, the many lay volunteers and the Church’s outreach to the poor and marginalised.

The Immersion experience helped us understand and involve ourselves in Jesus’ mission where we came face to face with the local communities in need from Prison Ministry, visiting the squatter families in 13th Street, living in very poor conditions, engaging with the families, caring for disabled children at orphanages, assisting staff and volunteers with household and personal care, tasks such as feeding and interacting with toddlers and children.

At the Jose De Piro Centre in the mssp Parish of St Catherine of Alexandria we visited the many schools, visited parishioners and engaged in the life of the community.

Over all the experience was both challenging and confronting as well as uplifting and life-changing.  So many amazing people that we met and I feel forever changed.

The value and support of the many debrief sessions and reflection day helped me to realise that we are all brothers and sisters, empathising with the people we met, sharing their daily joy and sorrows, celebrating their richness and gifts and feeling for their pain.  I learnt as much from them, possibly more as they learned from me.

Supported throughout the experience by critical and prayerful sharing, we as a group recognised that we are all involved in taking responsibility for their reality in our global society.

Colin Bracken

 

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Exemple

When I entered the church to attend the Listening and Dialogue session, to my surprise, I was one of only 3 people under 20 years old present.  However, throughout the night, I felt that my views during the discussions were listened to by all those present.

It was so refreshing to see how open people were in sharing their experiences and points of view of the state of the church in Australia as a whole, as well as actively discussing and responding to people’s views of where God was inviting the church to pilgrimage to.

For me personally taking part in such a significant event in the Australian Catholic church made me, as a member of the laity, feel like my voice could truly be heard.

Mevan Fernando

 

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St James The Apostle