Through Shadows and Images...

A Blog by Tom Gourlay

Month: November 2015

29 November 2015 – 1st Sunday of Adent

Gospel Lk 2:41-52

“When these things begin to take place, stand erect, hold your heads high, because your liberation is near at hand.”

 

Jesus employs some fairly harrowing imagery in this Sunday’s reading. These things, he says, will accompany his glorious return. The apocalyptic overtones are at once terrifying and matched with words of consolation.

The season of Advent which begins this Sunday marks the beginning of is an annual reminder of a foundational hope of the Christian faith, namely that Jesus will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.

We live in the joyful and expectant hope of this as we know that God is a God of mercy. This hope is not presumption, but it is realistic as we know that mercy is not simply an attribute of God, a characteristic that he possesses, but we can say that mercy is of his very essence. Mercy, says St John Paul II is love’s other name. (Dives in Misericordia, 7)

Hope is a theological virtue which is not passive presumption, but actually is the cause for our activity. In hope we are saved, and this hope spurs us on to live as Jesus taught, to ‘Stay awake, praying at all times for the strength to survive all that is going to happen, and to stand with confidence before the Son of Man.’ (cf. Lk 21)

The season of Advent is one of expectant and hopeful waiting, but waiting it seems is not something we are often prepared to do in our culture. Indeed, it feels at times that we have been conditioned not to wait, but to take what we can immediately perhaps thinking that hope in God is unfounded.

Let us pray for the grace to wait in joyful hope for Christ’s coming this Christmas, rather than living as though it is Christmas already.


Prayer for Advent
Grant, almighty Father,
that when Christ comes again we may go out to meet him
bearing the harvest of good works achieved by your grace.
We pray that he will receive us into the company of the saints
and call us into the kingdom of heaven.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
    who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
    one God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

22 November 2015 – The Feast of All Saints – Solemnity Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe (34th Sunday of Ordinary Time)

“Everyone on the side of truth listens to me”
The reading today, much like the Solemnity it is chosen to mark, is a strong one. It is yet another of the remarkably bold truth claims of the Christian faith – namely that Jesus Christ is the King of the Universe.
In the scene before us Jesus stands before Pilate, a beaten, bruised and broken man and yet he is as engaging and provocative as ever.
Here he blows open the notion of worldly power which dominates the mind of Pilate, and speaks of a Kingdom which is not of this world. A Kingdom where Truth reigns, and which grows in power and authority wherever Truth is found.
Pontius Pilate is a man of earthly power. His power is exercised through the sheer and inescapable might of the Roman army which he was responsible for in that region at that time. Through this power he is able to command wide respect and to manipulate all manner of circumstances to meet his will.
The power that stands before him in the person of Jesus is of an altogether different sort. Jesus’ power is paradoxically weak, humble and suffering. And yet it is this power through which he defeats sin and death. In his complete self-emptying love, the tremendous power of God the Father is manifest for the world.
The wisdom of this world teaches that we need to reach out, and through an act of sheer will, assert our own power and determine reality for ourselves. This is exemplified here in the person of Pilate – and yet this power is ultimately weak, impotent and flaccid. It will meet its end in death.

Contrary to our intuition we see that the power which is universal across time and space, is that kenotic or self-empting gift of self that Jesus exemplifies for us. It is through this that God works most effectively in and through us.

Poetic Musings
May nations’ rulers you profess
And in a public worship bless;
May teachers, judges, you revere,
In Arts and Laws may this appear.
Let every royal standard shine
In homage to your power divine;
Beneath you gentle rule subdue
The home of all, their countries, too.
All glory be, O Lord, to you,
All earthly powers you subdue;
With Father and the Spirit be
All glory yours eternally
Te saeculorum principem
First Vespes on the Feast of Christ the King (from the Old Rite)

1 November 2015 – The Feast of All Saints – (31st Sunday of Ordinary Time)

Gospel Mt 5:1-12
“His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them”
Here we have before us what is perhaps the most famous and powerful sermon ever preached.
Here Jesus turns the wisdom of this world on its head. This series of paradoxical sayings show us that God’s priorities are not our own.
Where we seek the blessings of riches and comfort, Jesus tells us that it is the poor in spirit that are the blessed as the inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.
Here he is not praising poverty for its own sake, but for the disposition which comes with poverty – that of simple acknowledgment of our need before God.
As we work through each of these beatitudes, these recipes for happiness, we see that they challenge pretty well each and every one of the ways we would seek happiness: We seek riches and comfort, thinking they will bring us happiness, we seek power and influence, we seek retribution and vengeance upon those who wrong us and hold grudges. All these are short-sighted attempts to assert our own happiness or contentedness.
Instead Jesus tells us something rather different. He tells us to be merciful, to seek after righteousness and meekness – these are the things that bring us real, deep and lasting joy, not only in this life, but in the life to come.

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