Through Shadows and Images...

A Blog by Tom Gourlay

Month: October 2015

25 October 2015 – 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“What do you want me to do for you?”
So often our conception of God regresses to something rather childish – we think of God as little more than some kind of mystical Father Christmas figure, who, when we remember to pray, receives little more than a list of things that we wish for. Often this sets us up for disappointment, and eventually we cease praying.
Here we have something of a model to follow. The son of Timaeus is firstly aware of his situation. He is a beggar, and the lack that he suffers is foremost in his mind.
At the news of Jesus’ passing by he is relentless in seeking his attention and pleading for his mercy. This is where we need to position ourselves – in humble acknowledgement of our need before God, acknowledging his greatness and crying out for his mercy.
Bartimaeus’ example continues. When he comes before the Lord he is not shy or embarrassed. He does not hide his needs in the face of the Lord’s greatness. “Rabbi, I want to see.”
How often do we let moments of grace such as this pass us by, refusing to acknowledge our need before God, thinking to myself instead that I will sort myself out first, and then present myself to God with a list of all that I have accomplished on my own.
This fails the test of reality because truly we cannot do much at all under our own steam – all is grace. All has been given freely to us, and our natural desire for infinite happiness remains stifled if we do not open ourselves, as did Bartimaeus to the grace that Jesus came to freely give.
Questioning Words
Do I seek out Jesus and offer him all that I am?
Am I open, bringing to God my faults and failings and asking for his mercy in the midst of my need, or do I hide my needs and my faults thinking that I can sort it out on my own?
Am I willing to accept the grace of God to work in my life, even through my shortcomings?

18 October 2015 – 29th Sunday of Ordinary Time

“Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 
and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”
The Disciples are an interesting bunch. Despite the time they’ve spent with Jesus, it seems that his message of humility, service and self-sacrificial love is consistently lost on them.
The reading for this Sunday recounts the story of James and John asking Jesus for places of high honour in the Kingdom. Their question itself belies a particular ignorance of the Kingdom that Jesus had been teaching and preaching about, and so Jesus capitalises on this most teachable of moments.
Gathering his disciples together, he instructs them “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”
These words are a radical challenge not only the pagans of Jesus’ day and the disciples to whom his words were first addressed, but for us who live in the modern world, Jesus’ words could not be more contradictory to current mode of being which we have inherited. For us today the assertion of one’s will and authority over self and others, and even nature itself is viewed as a supreme virtue. All must be bent to the power of the human will.
In this context, Christ’s words about humility and service or worse still meekness could not be more unpalatable!
Here, the example of sacrificial love and meekness that he gives is himself, the Son of Man who came not to be served but to serve.
Indeed, Christ’s admonition to follow after him, to be meek and humble of heart, is a difficult task – and those who take a more pessimistic view of human nature would hold that what he asks is impossible. While the nay-sayers would claim that the last Christian died on the Cross, we can assert with St Paul that ‘I can do all things through him who strengthens me.’ [Phil 4:13]

Words of Wisdom
“At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.” 
― Mother Teresa

11 October 2015 – 28th Sunday of Ordinary Time

 “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

The story recounted in today’s Gospel reading is one that we are no doubt familiar with. Here the rich young man, a good bloke by the sounds of it, approaches Jesus asking ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?’
Something deep within him seems to drive him to want go beyond a merely moralistic adherence to the law. Here he encounters Christ and is drawn to something more. As Pope John Paul II observed, ‘For the young man, the question is not so much about rules to be followed, but about the full meaning of life.(JPII, Veritatis Splendor, 7).
While he rightly intuits that the eternal destiny of man is connected to the moral life – the rich young man is conscious that there must be something more that corresponds to the deepest desires of his heart. And so he approaches Jesus, the One who had begun his preaching with this new and decisive proclamation about the time being fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God being now at hand (Cf. Mk 1:15).
Jesus’ call to ‘sell everything you have and give to the poor,’ and, ‘follow me’ is a real challenge to this man, not because he is living an objectively bad life, but because his relative wealth affords him a comfort that he does not want to risk.
For many of us today, the comfort which our relative wealth affords us often prevents us from allowing ourselves to be vulnerable enough to experience true love – to risk all in our efforts to follow Christ.
The rich man goes away sad, and his is a sadness we might share in lest we take up the invitation to boldly risk all on account of love.
As John Paul II elsewhere reflects on the challenging words of Christ, ‘[a]re we to fear the severity of these words, or rather have confidence in their salvific content, in their power?’ (JPII 8 Oct 1980).
Let us pray for the grace to risk all on account of love.

4 October 2015 – 27th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Gospel Mk 10:2-16
“But at the beginning of creation…”
  
In today’s Gospel we read of how Jesus dealt with the contentious issues surrounding marriage in his own day by pointing towards God’s creative intention ‘In the beginning.’ This brings us right back to the stories of Adam and Eve and the garden of Eden.
In our own day it seems that we need this constant reminder of our creatureliness, and of who made marriage in the first place. In his teaching on this obviously contentious topic Christ himself points out that the relative laxity of the Law of Moses in this regard was a concession for those living after the Fall and prior to the Incarnation of Christ. His words here not only re-affirm the original vision for marriage, but efficaciously call us all to a redeemed and sacramental understanding of marriage. 
Here he is not at all like the Pharisees of his time, tying up heavy religious burdens for the people that he is not willing to carry [cf. Mt 23:4]. No. Instead he shoulders the heaviest of our burdens, taking on all our sin and inviting us to a new life, redeemed by the blood offered in sacrifice on the cross.
His call to a conception of marriage as indissoluble, as it was ‘in the beginning,’ is not just some ‘pie in the sky’ ideal, but an efficacious call. His words here have a power that is beyond mere human effort. We need to couple our effort with an openness to the grace God wishes to bestow upon us.

Perhaps too this can serve as a model for how we might engage in current discussions concerning marriage. Rather than debate supposed social consequences, we can emulate Christ by pointing to an understanding of marriage as it was in the beginning, and elevated by Christ to the level of a sacrament.

Questioning Words
Do I have faith in the power of Christ’s words that love can last?

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén