Through Shadows and Images...

A Blog by Tom Gourlay

Month: March 2016

27 March – Easter Sunday, of the Resurrection

Gospel Jn 20:1-9
“[A]nd 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

20 March 2016 – Palm Sunday

‘I tell you, if these keep silence the stones will cry out.’
‘The stones will cry out.’ What an incredible claim!?
As we near the end of this Lenten season and approach Easter, the central claims of Christianity come starkly into view.
At the origin of the Christian claim stands this figure. Jesus.
On one hand he is seemingly unremarkable. The son of a carpenter, living a somewhat obscure existence, wholly unremarkable in the backwaters of first century Palestine until, that is, he reaches the age of around 30, when he begins a three year period of intense activity; preaching, teaching, healing, performing miracles, and the like. More than this though, it seems that in the stories recounted in the Gospels, it is his mere presence which elicits the greatest response – either of loving acceptance or utter derision and rejection.
Jesus was a polarising figure, and he continues to be today. His very existence makes a claim on us, and requires of us an answer.
The events of today’s Gospel remind us of this harsh reality – one cannot remain indifferent toward Jesus. Even the stones will cry out his praises should we all remain silent.

Christians of all ages, beginning with his Disciples and carrying on down throughout the centuries have found in the person of Jesus, something that resonates deeply within their hearts. It is this personal encounter, which for many of us happens through his Body on earth, the Church, which fundamentally changes us, opening up new horizons and making our supreme calling clear.

Point to Ponder
‘Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.’
– Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 1

13 March 2016 – Fifth Sunday of Lent

Gospel Jn 8:1-11
‘If there is one of you who has not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her’

The stories of Jesus in the Gospels can sometimes be confusing. On one hand we have stories like this, which seem to depict Jesus as ultimately tolerant, and perhaps even what some might consider weak on sin. On the other hand there are stories such as the cleansing of the temple, which seem to paint a picture of Jesus who is altogether intolerant and impatient with sinners. What are we to make of this?
It seems that, in this story, Jesus trying to provide some useful correction, not just to the woman caught in adultery, but to all assembled – and perhaps most particularly – to those accusing her, those seeking to meet out the punishment prescribed in the law.
Jesus does not however, feel the need to harp on about the various transgressions of the law. He can see into the hearts of all. Instead, he holds up to each person their something of a mirror – inviting them to look inwardly at the state of their own soul.
Jesus’ invitation for anyone who is without sin to throw the first stone is cutting – it does not reflect on any acceptance of the sin of the woman, but instead forces everyone to take stock of their own position before God.
There is an old Christian saying that goes, ‘There but for the grace of God go I’ which is basically an invitation to put ourselves in the shoes of others. We do not know what our life would be like without the wonderful gifts that God has bestowed on us, through our family, friends or other circumstances.
Our task is not to judge others but to help them, and to work on ourselves, to take hold of the gifts which we have been given and to ‘go, and sin no more.’


4 March 2016 – Fourth Sunday of Lent

My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours.
This parable, spoken by Jesus is one of the most famous of all his sayings and stories. Pope Francis is his recent book-length interview referred to the parable of the Prodigal Son as the Gospel in miniature.
His predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI spoke of this parable, with the title ‘the parable of the two sons’, as for him, the parable is as much about the wandering or prodigal son as it is about the son who stays at home, and it is upon this son that I’d like to draw out some reflections today.
Upon the return of his wayward brother the older son closes himself off. He refuses to participate in the celebrations that are accompanying his return. He, it seems, is not operating out of a logic of love freely given and received. No. Instead his logic is economically minded, in the sense that he sees the love of the father as something of a reward for good behaviour or services rendered.
The father’s response to him is significant. He points out how impoverished this view really is, telling his son that, ‘you are with me always and all I have is yours.’ The son had not seen that he had already inherited all that he had wanted and more, and instead held an erroneous view of his father, one which prevented him from establishing any real relationship of love with him.
Often we find ourselves in the shoes of the lost or prodigal son, and this story is one which gives great comfort and solace. The story however becomes much more challenging when we find ourselves in the shoes of the son who had seemingly done no wrong. In these instances we must remember that ‘being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.’ [BXI, DCE n.1]

We cannot reduce the Gospel to ethic or philosophical propositions, but live from that point of encounter.

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