Through Shadows and Images...

A Blog by Tom Gourlay

Month: March 2015

29 March 2015 – Palm Sunday of the Passion of Our Lord

“Then they remembered that this had been written of him and had been done to him…”
Imagine having been there, on that first Palm Sunday. Here was this man Jesus, whom so many had either met or had at least heard about.
Rumours of his otherworldliness would have no doubt circulated as he wandered from town to town over the preceding three years. In stark contrast to the other teachers and preachers of his day, Jesus taught with authority, healed the sick, ate and conversed with public sinners and cast out demons.
What strikes us about this man, despite his obvious greatness, is his absolute lack of pride. Coming amongst us, first as an embryo in the womb of the Virgin, then as a child in the stable of Bethlehem, now as he enters Jerusalem, riding on a donkey.
Here is the challenge that Jesus presents to us.
To quote the Italian theologian, Fr Luigi Giussani, ‘While he calls himself ‘master’ and asks to be followed, one can recognize and go with him or decide not to, and there is still room for mere indifference.  But when his proposal clearly claims to enter the dominion of our freedom, he is either accepted and it becomes love, or rejected and it becomes hostility.’ (At the Origin, p. 65)
Jesus, while respecting our freedom, is a presence, a fact in history, which demands of us a response.
Will we be like those who had heard of Jesus, and were ready to greet him as he entered Jerusalem, shouting with the people, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”
Or, will we be like those who only days later found his presence and the claims which he had made, and indeed continues to make, a nuisance?
Let us ask the Lord for the grace to recognise Him in whatever form he comes to us, and to receive him

in openness and charity.

Point to Ponder
Jesus said, ‘Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God’
As we enter into this most holy of weeks, the events of Good Friday loom large in our minds. Let us ask the Lord to purify the eyes of our heart so that we will recognise him in the humble garb with which he clothes himself: in the sick; in the poor; in those imprisoned; and, in all those who suffer.
Let us welcome him as those who welcomed Our Lord upon his entry into Jerusalem.
And let us seek his forgiveness for the times when we have shut him out, and reacted with hostility to his message of mercy

22 March 2015 – 5th Sunday of Lent

Unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies
To those who are familiar with the sayings of Jesus, the imagery used in today’s Gospel reading is a familiar one, yet often this familiarity can blind us to the astonishing nature of the person of Jesus and the words which he speaks.
Here we have Jesus speaking of the grain of wheat which will not be able to give new life unless it dies. If it does it will sprout and generate and be a source of life for those who rely on bread to survive.
Here we witness one of the great paradoxes of the Christian faith. It is death that leads to life. How can this be?
As our Lenten journey progresses we press more and more deeply into our reflections on the sufferings that Jesus experienced through his Passion and death we are invited to unite our sufferings with his.
Apart from him, our sufferings are meaningless and a source of despair and hopelessness. What Jesus offers is no quick fix – despite our desires otherwise. No. Instead what he offers us is empathy; a real experience of ‘suffering with’ that we cannot experience authentically elsewhere.
When we look upon an image of the crucified Christ we see in his great sufferings the hope we have for the salvation of all humanity [CCC1821] for it is by his stripes that we are healed [Is 53:5].
What Christ asks of us here is that we not hold back in our giving – even to the point of death – because the human person, the only creature on earth which God willed for itself cannot find himself except through a sincere gift of self. [GS, 24]

If we die with him we will experience his resurrection. [2Tim 2:11]
Points to Ponder
How am I tracking this Lenten season?
Perhaps this is a good time to reassess the commitments we made at the start of this Lenten period.
No matter how you’ve travelled so far, let’s make a resolution to finish off this Lenten season well, so that we can adequately prepare for Our Lord’s resurrection at Easter

15 March 2015 – 4th Sunday of Lent

Gospel Jn 3:14-21

The late night D&M
This segment from John’s Gospel recounts a conversation that occurred late at night between Jesus and a man named Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a member of the Sanhedrin.
Often when discussing this encounter, commentators state that Nicodemus was visiting under the cover of night, lest he be discovered by his colleagues and accused of being a sympathiser to Jesus’ teaching. Perhaps this was the case, but perhaps also he was interested in the kind of conversation that often occurs late at night. We’ve all had these experiences when, late at night, in the silence that surrounds us, we share deeply with those around us. I like to think that Nicodemus wanted to engage Jesus in that kind of late-night deep and meaningful discussion.
This portion of the conversation has Jesus recounting a significant moment in the history of the people of Israel, when they were wandering the desert. Due some particularly rebellious activity, they were attacked by a plague of poisonous snakes. Moses, crafting a serpent from bronze raised it high on a standard, and all who looked upon it were healed.
Jesus, drawing the link between the elevation of this bronze serpent, and his coming elevation on the cross tells Nicodemus how we are to act; we ought to look up on Him crucified. When we do this in faith, this otherwise horrific scene of one man’s tortuous death becomes the very object of our hope.
It is at this point in the conversation that Jesus utters those famous words, which explain the whole meaning of his coming amongst us as a man, and his crucifixion and death, that ‘God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.’

Jesus asks Nicodemus, and through him he asks all of us to believe in this love, a love which is stronger than anything – even death.

Point to Ponder
So often we have a image of God as a condemning judge, yet in today’s Gospel we read that Jesus’ mission in the world is not condemnatory but salvific.
These words of Jesus are very comforting, in fact – if we believe in him and his message of merciful love we can stand
Jesus tells us that anyone who believes will not fall victim to the darkness. This is because real belief is lived out in our action: ‘whoever lives by the truth comes into the light’
Perhaps this lent we can, like Nicodemus, seek Jesus out in silence and prayer to engage in that late night D&M.

8 March 2015 – 3rd Sunday of Lent

Gospel Jn 2:13-25

So he made a whip out of cords
Today’s Gospel presents us with a confounding depiction of Jesus. We’re so often presented with a really kitsch image of Jesus, this perennial ‘nice guy’, or ‘Buddy-Christ’ which makes this story of Jesus cleansing the temple strange, leaving us feeling rather uneasy. Isn’t Jesus supposed to be the peacemaker?
Perhaps this uneasiness is intended by the Gospel writer.
In the Gospels Jesus is supremely patient and tolerant of all sorts of people and mannerisms, however when it comes to issues concerning disrespect for God, for the truth, for ourselves, or for our fellow man (particularly the poor), Jesus exercises a ‘holy wrath’ that is far from peaceable.
Jesus it seems is intolerable of those things which prevent us from our ultimate destiny – union with Him in heaven.
Why is this Gospel set before us in Lent?
Just as Jesus had a deep and profound love for the Temple in his day, so too does he have a love for each one of us, each of which is a temple of the Holy Spirit.
When we act selfishly, or when we think or act out of pride or greed or lust we defile the temple which is our very body. Quite often it is the very consequences of our own wrong-doing that become the cords of the whip that scourge us. If we allow him to, Jesus can work through these sufferings to cleanse the temple of our body.
And it is this cleansing which makes us more capable of reflecting him to those around us.

Let us not then fear this cleansing, as painful as it may be, but let us look to Jesus and trust in his unfailing love for each and every one of us.

Point to Ponder
How do I respond to the sufferings which come my way?
What can I do to unite these sufferings with those of Christ?

1 March 2015 – 2nd Sunday of Lent

“It is wonderful for us to be here!
Perhaps it is difficult for us to imagine, but for Peter and James and John, this was an incredible, life altering experience that was absolutely real.
In imagining myself as an outside observer to this scene I am taken with Peter’s somewhat pedestrian response to the almost unfathomable sight which unfolds. Jesus is transfigured, his clothes become brilliantly white and he appears with the two greatest figures of the Old Testament, and Peter pipes up to say how great it is to be there while all this is happening.
I can though, understand how much he would have liked such an experience to last forever, but this little foretaste of the eschaton is not to last – and it is here where we find the wisdom of the Church in placing this reading before us in the second week of Lent.
The journey ahead for the Apostles was a tough one, as is it for us. In the coming few weeks and months they will witness the arrest and execution of their friend, and this mysterious experience atop the mountain is something from which they will gain strength through such traumatic times.

As we journey through Lent, let us be sustained in the knowledge and the hope which comes from knowing that Jesus is the Beloved Son of the Father.

Point to Ponder
How do these mountain-top experiences sustain you through the tough times?

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