Through Shadows and Images...

A Blog by Tom Gourlay

Month: April 2015

3 May 2015 – 5th Sunday of Easter

Gospel Jn 15:1-8
“For cut off from me, you can do nothing.”
Last week Jesus used the image of the Good Shepherd to teach his followers about himself. In today’s Gospel we find him using a very different image.
Living here in this Port City of Fremantle one occasionally has the good fortune to travel down to the renowned winemaking regions of the south-west of this fair state. In the next few months we’ll be coming up to that time of the year when winemakers are out in force pruning back their vines, so this imagery is not completely unfamiliar to us.
If you happen to be down there after the pruning has happened you may find yourself shocked at the severity to which the vines are pruned. The once fruitful vines seem to be nothing but dead stumps! And yet, from these vines new life does come forth and much more than if they’d not been pruned.
Jesus could not be clearer in his imagery here, just as a branch will wither as it is cut off from the life giving sap of the vine, so too will we wither if we are cut off from him, as the source of life and love. We must abide in him.
Pope Benedict XVI, in commenting on this reading wrote that ‘[i]t is important that we “abide” in Christ, in the vine. The evangelist uses the word “abide” a dozen times in this brief passage. This “abiding in Christ” characterizes the whole of the parable. In our era of restlessness and lack of commitment, when so many people lose their way and their grounding, when loving fidelity in marriage and friendship has become so fragile and short-lived, when in our need we cry out like the disciples on the road to Emmaus: “Lord, stay with us, for it is almost evening and darkness is all around us!” (cf. Lk 24:29), then the risen Lord gives us a place of refuge, a place of light, hope and confidence, a place of rest and security. When drought and death loom over the branches, then future, life and joy are to be found in Christ.’

To abide in Christ is to abide in the Church, which is his Body here on earth. 

Questioning Words
Have I cut myself of from the life-giving vine which is Christ and his Church?
Am I willing to be grafted anew onto the living vine of Christ? 

26 April 2015 – 4th Sunday of Easter

“I know my own and my own know me”
Throughout the Gospels Jesus uses a variety of images to describe the love that he and his heavenly Father have for us, and the relationship that they seek to have with each and every one of us. Here in this figure of the Good Shepherd we find an image that continues to resound in our hearts and minds.
The shepherd would have been a familiar sight to those to whom Jesus first addressed these words – indeed there were probably many among them who had firsthand experience doing that very job. For us however, the role and duties of the shepherd are far from our day to day experience, and yet the image is still one that strikes us.
In speaking of his role as shepherd, Jesus tells his followers that those of his flock will know his voice when they hear it.
This seems strange to us today. How can we, who live 2000 some years after the time of Christ hear and know his voice?
Firstly, we need to take some time out – to stop and to pray. To reflect on God’s Word as it comes to us in Scripture and in Liturgy. We need to open ourselves and not try to impose our own wishes on to what the Lord may be telling us.
Pope Francis rightly points out that “It is so difficult to listen to the voice of Jesus, the voice of God, when you believe that that the whole world revolves around you: there is no horizon, because you become your own horizon,”
The words of Jesus in today’s reading point us to how we can move out of that frame of mind which positions us as our own horizon – we must emulate the Good Shepherd who freely lays down his life for his beloved. It is only in this self-emptying service of God and of neighbour that we are sufficiently freed to be able to hear fully the words of Christ and to listen to them.
Let us ask for the grace to trust in His mercy, to be able to give ourselves fully over to Him who saves.

19 April 2015 – 3rd Sunday of Easter

“They were still talking about all this…”
We celebrated Easter Sunday about 3 weeks ago and in our busy schedule that can see like ancient history. Easter however, is more than this isolated event. For the fifty days which span from Easter to Pentecost, we are still in the Easter season, and one thing continues to be at the centre of our thought and reflection. The resurrection.
It is not just in this Easter season, but every day that we, like the disciples in today’s Gospel, are taken with this fact – this reality of Christ, raised from the dead.
There is little more fascinating than this claim – that their friend, a guy who they lived with for three years, whom they saw arrested, beaten and publicly executed physically rose from the dead.
Christ’s bodily resurrection is something that all the Gospel’s recount. Importantly, Jesus chooses to demonstrate his physical, bodily resurrection in two primary ways, both of which convey special meaning.
Firstly, he shows his wounds, asking his disciples to touch them and see for themselves. Secondly, he asks to be fed.
These two actions of Christ demonstrate his full, bodily resurrection. Not only that, but they point to a way which we can experience the risen Lord here and now – in touching the wounds of those who suffer and in feeding the homeless.
In one of Jesus’ parables, he directly identifies himself with those who suffer, admonishing his followers to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, to welcome the stranger, to clothe the naked, to visit those who are sick or imprisoned.
Let us pray that we would be more like those disciples, so consumed with wonder at the Risen Lord that we would still be talking about this, and that we would not be afraid to touch the wounds of those who suffer, and feed those who go hungry.

Let us pray that we do not allow the great mystery of the truth of the resurrection to leave us unaffected.

12 April 2015 – 2nd Sunday of Easter – Divine Mercy Sunday

“These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ …”

The story of the Resurrection is one which is at the heart of the Christian message – and for many it is a real roadblock on the way to faith.
In this Gospel reading we’re presented with the story of Thomas who is struggling with the idea of the resurrection, not having physically witnessed it himself. So often we read this questioning in a negative light, and we forget the great admonition of St Paul to ‘test everything, hold on to what is good’ [1Th 5:21].
For Thomas the seeming absurdity of the claims being made by the other Apostles of Christ’s resurrection had to be verified and Jesus was absolutely unafraid to provide Thomas with the opportunity to do just that.
It is particularly fitting that Jesus proved his resurrection to Thomas through the evidence of his wounds.
It is right here, in these wounds that we encounter Jesus. Commenting on this passage, Pope Francis wrote the “path to our encounter with Jesus-God are his wounds. There is no other.”
We might complain today that, unlike Thomas, we do not have the opportunity to feel these wounds which are imprinted on the flesh of Christ. How can I verify this claim of the resurrection today?
“We find Jesus’ wounds in carrying out works of mercy, giving to our body – the body – the soul too, but – I stress – the body of your wounded brother, because he is hungry, because he is thirsty, because he is naked because it is humiliated, because he is a slave, because he’s in jail because he is in the hospital. Those are the wounds of Jesus today…
Let us ask St. Thomas for the grace to have the courage to enter into the wounds of Jesus with tenderness and thus we will

5 April 2015 – Easter Sunday

Gospel Jn 20:1-9
“And he saw and believed…”

These words strike me with a particular strength. ‘He saw and believed.’
The disciples had followed Jesus for three years, and upon his arrest only John had stuck around to witness the horrific events of his execution and death. News had obviously circulated and the disciples, whether they had physically witnessed it or not, no doubt knew and understood the fate of their friend.
Overcome with grief, Peter and John ran to the gravesite upon hearing Mary Mag′dalene’s news of the open tomb. John reached the tomb earlier but waited for Peter to enter first.
What they saw was enough – without seeing or conversing with the resurrected Jesus (something that they would do in the not too distant future), they ‘saw and believed.’
So often for us today, sight is required for belief in almost everything. For the most part we require an experience of something if we are to profess our belief in it – particularly if said assertion is extraordinary, as in the case of the resurrection. In such a circumstance, how are we to come to belief? Where is my evidence for belief in the resurrection?
If the resurrection had not happened things would be different. There would be no reason at all for our hope. Death would be the end.
Our evidence then is not just the verbal or written testimony of those men and women who witnessed the risen Lord – but it is the witness of the lives of those around us which have been radically transformed by the hope which accompanies this resurrection. As we enter into these last few days of the Lenten season we rightly reflect on the suffering and death of Our Lord, but let us not give in to despair. This is not the end, for he has overcome death.

Point to Ponder

“Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song.” Pope St John Paul II

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