Through Shadows and Images...

A Blog by Tom Gourlay

Month: November 2014

30 November 2014 – 1st Sunday of Advent

Gospel Mark 13:33-37
Stay Awake!

In the season of Advent the Church puts before us a number of readings which have us reflect on the end times when Christ comes again. Today’s reading on this first Sunday of Advent see’s Jesus giving clear advice to his disciples – ‘Stay awake!’, ‘Always be ready!’
These rather ominous sounding words ring out clearly reminding us that we are not just preparing in this Advent Season to remember the coming of the Christ Child in the stable of Bethlehem nearly 2000 years ago, but also to remember that ‘He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,’ as we say each week in the Creed.
What does it mean though for us to stay awake? Sure, we must always try to have our own house in order, to make every effort to remain in the state of grace through frequent recourse to the sacraments of confession and the Eucharist. But along with this we need to be prepared to meet Christ in his intermediary coming in our daily prayer, in our frequent interactions with those around us, with those in need, whether that be physical emotional, spiritual or something else.
Jesus exhorts us to stay awake and be ready to meet him in the people and in the situations where we are often most uncomfortable.

Questioning Words
How can I take time out this Advent to get my own house in order so to speak, to ready myself for Jesus’ coming again?
Am I awake to those around me who are in need?
Have I taken time out to pray this week?
How can I wake myself up this Advent to be ready for Christ’s second coming?

23 November 2014: The Solemnity of Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Gospel Mt 25:31-34
More than mere social justice
Today’s Gospel has Jesus prophesying how things will be in the end times when he returns in glory. Jesus goes on to liken himself to the person who is hungry, thirsty, the person who is a stranger, who is naked, sick or imprisoned. Whenever such people are ignored or worse exploited, it is as though we are ignoring or exploiting Christ himself. Conversely, any act of charity directed to these unfortunate ones is treated as though it was done directly to him.
What Christ is asking of us is more than a well meaning philanthropy, as praiseworthy as that may be. What he is calling to us to is not merely a warm and fuzzy recommendation that we ‘be nice.’ Nor is it even a gritty social justice which would see us sleeves rolled up, getting our hands dirty helping those who are less fortunate that ourselves. Sure, those things are good in and of themselves, but he is calling us to more than that. He is calling us to be motivated in all things by the very love of God.

Ask yourself…
What can I do to show love for the less fortunate in my own community?
During the coming season of Advent how can I enact the mercy of God to those around me?

16 November 2014: 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Gospel Mt 25:14-30
Taking a gamble

Inevitably, this Gospel reading lends itself to the kind of reflection that says, ‘don’t waste your God-given talents.’ And really, that’s not a bad message to take away from the reading this Sunday. But perhaps there’s more to be learned here.
As a matter of fact, the thing that struck me the most when reflecting on this parable of Our Lord is the absolute recklessness of the two first servants, who traded all that they had been given in the hope of making more for their master. Their investment seems to me to be a pretty risky gamble. Just imagine if they’d lost everything!
The one servant who very carefully goes about burying his talent for safe keeping was probably thinking to himself, ‘At least I won’t lose it. I will have something to give back to my master upon his return.’ In the end, we know what happened. The master took his conservative attitude as irresponsible. Why is that?
In a certain sense, Jesus is asking us to trust Him. He has given us these talents, not so that we would lock them up safely and never use them, but to put them to work for his greater glory in the building up of His Kingdom – building a culture of life and love. Like the two first servants, we need to be fearless in putting our talents to work for the good, holding nothing back, clear in the knowledge that God will in fact bless our efforts when they are put to work in furthering His Kingdom.

Ask yourself…
Am I aware of the many gifts that God has given me, and the gifts that others see in me?
Have I back in offering my gifts to God and to those around me?
How can I employ my own gifts for the building up of God’s Kingdom?
Am I paralysed by fear or animated by trust?

9 November 2014: Dedication of the Lateran Basilica

Gospel Jn 2:13-22
Being Zealous for the Lord

This week’s Gospel reading is indeed a tough one. So often we are presented with schmaltzy, warm fuzzy images of Jesus – the perennial nice-guy, who encourages us all to love one another, not judge anybody or anything and generally be good people. The image we are presented with here cannot be more different.
Jesus’ actions seem extreme to say the very least. Making a whip out of some cord and driving the money traders and merchants out of the Temple seems rather confounding for someone whom we often envision as mild-mannered and who, in last week’s Gospel spoke of himself as being ‘meek and humble of heart.’
The telling phrase for me in this reading is the remembrance of the disciples of the words of Scripture ‘zeal for your house will devour me.’
What does this mean? How do Jesus’ actions show a zeal for God’s house? Surely everyone is welcome in God’s house – aren’t they?
Indeed, for Jesus, the activities which were being undertaken can be symbolic of all the many obstacles which stand in the way (and which we often put in the way) of the life of holiness that he calls us to. They are obstacles to our living in the house of the Lord.
Jesus is consumed in his zeal for holiness and consequently he takes such a strong stance against those things which stand in our way – he calls us to do the same. To be merciless to those things, those bad habits, thoughts and actions which prevent us from living more fully in his love.

Questioning Words
What can I cut out of my life that would allow me to live more fully the joy which comes from living a life united to Christ?

2 November 2014: The Feast of All Souls

Gospel Matthew 11:25-30
Moving past the abstractions and encountering the person

This week we read Jesus’ invitation to come and give our worries and our cares over to him. It is fitting as we enter into the month of November, when we dedicate our prayers to God for the souls of those who have died. The sufferings and the hardships that come with this remembering can be paralysing.
And so while this invitation is comforting for most of us at one time or another, it is an invitation that can seem rather abstract. Perhaps this was possible for the disciples when they were walking and talking with him to share their concerns and worries with the Lord, but after he had died, risen and ascended into heaven, doesn’t the idea of resting in Christ become something rather abstract? How is it that he is supposed shoulder our burdens when we can’t see him?
Sure, we have the risen Christ with us today, but it’s just not the same. The risen Christ for most of us is an abstraction. He ‘died and was buried and rose again on the third day’, so we say in the creed each Sunday – but what does this mean for us? This real, human encounter with the person of Jesus, if that doesn’t exist today, then it’s simply pointless. No amount of orthodoxy or morality or philosophy can bring it back if there is no encounter. The problem that we have is making the Christian proposal not just a theoretical one, but a fact of life.
How do we have this encounter? Most often we simply don’t allow ourselves to experience God because we make ourselves too busy. Our leisure time is used to immerse ourselves in a sea entertainment, in television, youtube, facebook and the like. We surround ourselves with noise and leave ourselves little to no time for silence and prayer. Often we simply aren’t comfortable in that silence as it is there where our worries and our burdens can overwhelm us. But, in fact, it is right there where Jesus says to us ‘Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.’
How can I make time to encounter him in my day to day?

Wise words from Pope Benedict XVI
‘Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.’ (Deus Caristas Est, 1)

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