Through Shadows and Images...

A Blog by Tom Gourlay

Month: November 2017

26 November – Thirty-Fourth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A) – The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Gospel Luke 23:35-43

‘In so far as you did this to one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it to me.’

Today, the last Sunday of the liturgical year we celebrate a feast formally titled, The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, simply, the Feast of Christ the King.

To modern ears the language of Kingship can be somewhat jarring. A good friend and colleague of mine, of American extraction, often likes to refer to the fact that as an American he is a citizen, while as members of a constitutional monarchy, Australians are to be considered to be subjects.

Being considered a subject of a monarch is, in our modern ‘Western’ context, something we would see as particularly undignified. As such, we are likely to look on this feast as some bizarre throwback to a tradition that has lost all real meaning – perhaps not realising that this is a particularly modern feast (it was only instituted in 1925!)

The Gospel reading for today though can give us some clues as to the ongoing relevance of this feast, particularly for our time, and how we should in fact be seeking to be subjects in the Kingdom of God.

The Kingdom of God is perhaps the key theme in Jesus’ preaching throughout the Gospels. The subjects of the Kingdom are those who work to extend the reign of God across time and space – a task that is achieved through reverent service to God through serving the most marginalised among us.

Choosing not to be a subject of the King, it seems, has some tragic consequences. One would struggle, I would think, to imagine words that are more difficult to hear at the end of one’s life as the words of the King addressed to those on his left in this parable.

If this pricks our conscience, then perhaps we could use this upcoming and graced time of Advent to prepare for the coming of the King – to acclimatise ourselves to being subjects of His Kingdom.

Point to Ponder

Many 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 your gentle rule subdue
The homes of all, their countries, too.

All glory be, O Lord, to you,
All earhthly powers you subdue;
With Father and the Spirit be
All glory yours eternally

–  Te saeculroum in principem, from First Vespers on the on the Feast of Christ the King.

19 November – Thirty-Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Gospel Mt 25:14-30

so I was afraid’

Inevitably, this Gospel reading lends itself to the kind of, ‘don’t waste your God-given talents’ interpretation. And really, that’s not a bad message to take away from the reading this Sunday. But perhaps there’s more to be learned here.

As a matter of fact, the thing that struck me the most when reflecting on this parable of Our Lord is the absolute recklessness of the two first servants, who traded all that they had been given in the hope of making more for their master. Their investment seems to me to be a pretty risky gamble, especially had they known that the was a “hard man”. Just imagine if they’d lost everything!

The one servant who very carefully goes about burying his talent for safekeeping was probably thinking to himself, ‘At least I won’t lose it. I will have something to give back to my master upon his return.’ In the end, we know what happened. The master looked upon his conservative attitude as irresponsible. Why is that?

What is it that Jesus has the master in this parable praise in the first two servants?

It is the fact that these talents are to be utilised, not fearfully protected. Talents are gifted to us not for our safekeeping, but to be put to work for the greater glory of God and the building up of His Kingdom – building a culture of life and love. Like the two first servants, we need to be fearless in putting our talents to work for the good, holding nothing back, clear in the knowledge that God will in fact bless our efforts when they are put to work in furthering His Kingdom.

Reflecting on the lives of the saints who have gone before us, we are given an opportunity to see radical generosity this lived out – Mother Teresa of Calcutta, Blessed Frederic Ozanam who sought to spare nothing as they poured themselves out in service of God through their service to those around them who needed it most.

 

12 November – Thirty-Second Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Gospel Matthew 25:1-13

‘Stay awake’

This parables that Jesus tells are by nature mysterious. They aim to draw us into contemplation, and to challenge any preconceived notions we might have.

One particular reading of this parable could lead to an image forming of a God who is seeking to catch us out. Jesus’ message of warning then, is something akin to a hot tip from someone with the inside scoop.

This particular reading however seems to be inadequate, if only because it does not match up with other things that Jesus has said of himself, or of God the Father.

The kingdom of God is thematic in Jesus’ teaching. In his parables he uses similes to paint a picture – always leaving room for further thought and contemplation. The Kingdom of God, he says, is like a mustard seed, a pearl of great price etc. Each parable adds a different hue to the overall image we get.

In the parable before us today, which, it is fair to say has something of an ominous, almost threatening tone emphasises that the Kingdom of God is something that is beyond our control. We cannot impose our will upon it, but must be open and adequately disposed to receive it.

In the liturgies of the East the refrain that echoes throughout the service is often repeated ‘Be attentive!’ This is what Jesus asks of us here.

Is it easy to be attentive? Do we allow the happenings of our day, the frenetic busy-ness of modern life, the incessant notifications that make our phones buzz to distract us?

 

Point to Ponder

[P]rayer consists of attention. It is the orientation of all the attention of which the soul is capable toward God. The quality of the attention counts for much in the quality of the prayer. Warmth of heart cannot make up for it.

Simone Weil

5 November – Thirty-First Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Gospel Luke 19:1-10

“The greatest among you must be your servant.”

Jesus’ teaching often flips our way of seeing the world on its head. On first reading it can even seem to be utter nonsense. But when we press into his words, and look beyond them to the clarifying nature of his deeds also, we are brought to a deeper awareness of the truth which he presents us with.

In his new dispensation the old wisdom that reigned is inverted. The first according to human reckoning is made last, and those who are last are now made first. The one who serves is the greatest.

This is exemplified in the person of Jesus himself who, born of the most modest of circumstances, and who pours his life out in humble service to all – and yet, who is the Lord of all creation.

For us, this bears significant meaning. We, who often seek to assert our own importance, who seek to be recognised and served, or applauded for the good works which we might do are reminded, not only by Jesus’ words and deeds, but also by his very person – by his coming as a man – that one’s greatness is manifest in humility and service.

If this all sounds a little to abstract, perhaps the example of a modern day saint, like St Mother Teresa of Calcutta can bring it down to earth.

This tiny woman, of very little significance in so very many ways transformed the lives of so many around her, and around the world. Not by worldly success or dominance, but by loving, humble service to the poorest of the poor – those who could not even thank her for her efforts. In this she, servant of all became one of the greatest amongst us.

Words of Wisdom

“Do not think that love in order to be genuine has to be extraordinary. What we need is to love without getting tired. Be faithful in small things because it is in them that your strength lies.”

― Mother Teresa

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