Through Shadows and Images...

A Blog by Tom Gourlay

Month: February 2016

28 February 2016 – Third Sunday of Lent

‘But unless you repent you will all perish as they did’
There is something a little unnerving in this brief passage put before us in today’s reading.
This time of lent is a graced time, one where we are encouraged to intensify our regular spiritual practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving. It is also a penitential season, a time for self-examination in light of the love of God, a love which took on human flesh in the person of Jesus, and which manifest itself in the sacrifice that Jesus undertook for us on the Cross.
This self-examination is not supposed to be an act of fearful self-deprecation, inspired by a particularly harsh reading of texts such as what is before us today, but instead we are to take a realistic look at who we are, in light of our creation as Imago Dei (the image of God) and, perhaps more specifically in light of the person of Jesus who fully reveals us to ourselves (see Gaudium et Spes n. 22).
The opportunity to repent, as seen in today’s reading instead should be looked at as a mercy. Like the fig tree that failed to produce fruit in due season, the opportunity to repent is an opportunity to be re-planted in Christ, from where we draw the strength to bear fruit that will last.
The act of repentance asked of us here is one that opens us up to experience the love and mercy of God.
Let us pray for the grace of a repentant heart this Lenten season, so that we can experience more fully the love and mercy of God the Father.

Point to Ponder
“Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite. Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father’s readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to His home. Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son. No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it. On the part of man only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the witness of the cross and resurrection of Christ.”
(St Pope John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia, 13)

21 February 2016 – Second Sunday of Lent

 Gospel Lk9:28-36 
“It is wonderful for us to be here”
When one pictures the kind of fantastical event as described here, it can seem that Peter’s reaction is a little simple or even childish. Set aside from the other disciples, he along with John and James are brought up the mountain to pray with Jesus where they witness something truly out of this world.
James and John are not recorded as having said or done anything in response to what they had witnessed, and perhaps we can assume that they were so moved that they felt it best to respect the solemnity of the moment with silence.
Peter, on the other hand bombastically fumbles forward, as he often does, speaking before he’s had time to think. Seemingly overwhelmed with excitement he says to Jesus stating, what must have been absolutely obvious, how great it is that he’s there to see all this unfolding. Then he embarrassingly suggests that they set up camp here and spend the rest of their lives enjoying these good times.
Peter obviously does not know the difficult times that lie ahead – not just for Jesus, but for him and all the rest of the disciples, this ‘mountaintop experience’ or time of consolation is perhaps gifted to them by Jesus as a means by which they can get through the tough times, or times of desolation.

Like Peter we often find ourselves nostalgic for the good times, and in our own childish way can find ourselves wishing that nothing will ever change. Yet perhaps we can recognise that these good times, or times of consolation are gifted to us, to help maintain us on the right path when times get tough or things become uncertain.

14 February 2016 – First Sunday of Lent

Gospel Lk 4:1-13
Man does not live on bread alone.
On the first Sunday of Lent, the Church puts before us this account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert.
At its most basic level, the story of Jesus’ 40 day period of fasting and prayer is for us a source of strength as we undertake our Lenten journey. With all its difficulties and penances, we are comforted by the fact that that He who is without sin is still very much like us in his capacity to experience real temptation.
At a deeper level however, we can see something perhaps more profound in the story. In the first volume of his book Jesus of Nazareth, Pope Benedict XVI devoted his second chapter to what is a truly insightful reflection on today’s reading.
In his reflection on the first temptation, the then-Pope pointed out how at its root, this temptation is not so much about Jesus satisfying his own hunger, but that of elevating the second commandment, to love one’s neighbour, over the first, to love God.
Often we experience the temptation to reduce the Gospel to meeting the physical and social needs of those around us. When this happens our charitable works become nothing more than mere philanthropy, which often leaves out the personal dimension in our call to care for the poor. While our attempts to feed the hungry are indeed well intentioned, Jesus’ response to this temptation, that “man does not live by bread alone” causes us to ask the question ‘what then, does he “live” by?’
According to Benedict, “At the heart of all temptations … is the act of pushing God aside because we perceive him as secondary, if not actually superfluous and annoying, in comparison with all the apparently far more urgent matters that fill our lives” (p. 28)
We stand in need of a constant reminder that God is the answer to the deepest longings of the human heart, and that the ongoing temptation to satisfy these longings without God will always end in greater suffering.

Point to Ponder
“Is he real, reality itself, or isn’t he? Is he good, or do we have to invent the good ourselves? The God question is the fundamental question, and sets us down right at the crossroads of human existence”
(Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth, vol.1, p.29)

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