Through Shadows and Images...

A Blog by Tom Gourlay

Month: February 2018

25 February – 2nd Sunday of Lent (Year B)

Gospel Mk 9:2-10

“It is wonderful for us to be here!

Perhaps it is difficult for us to imagine, but for Peter and James and John, this was an incredible, life altering experience that was absolutely real.

In imagining myself as an outside observer to this scene I am taken with Peter’s somewhat pedestrian response to the almost unfathomable sight which unfolds. Jesus is transfigured, his clothes become brilliantly white and he appears with the two greatest figures of the Old Testament, and Peter pipes up to say how great it is to be there while all this is happening.

I can though, understand how much he would have liked such an experience to last forever, but this little foretaste of the eschaton is not to last – and it is here where we find the wisdom of the Church in placing this reading before us in the second week of Lent.

The journey ahead for the Apostles was a tough one, as is it for us. In the coming few weeks and months they will witness the arrest and execution of their friend, and this mysterious experience atop the mountain is something from which they will gain strength through such traumatic times.

As we journey through Lent, let us be sustained in the knowledge and the hope which comes from knowing that Jesus is the Beloved Son of the Father.

18 February – 1st Sunday of Lent (Year B)

Gospel Mk 1:12-15

“Repent, and believe the Good News.”

As we begin our Lenten journey the Church reminds us of this episode immediately after Jesus’ baptism by John. Jesus was driven out into the desert and Mark, master of pith that he is, seemingly has very little to say about it.

He went out, stayed there for forty days, was tempted by Satan, was with the wild beasts, and the angels looked after him.

We do not hear about the gruelling nature of his forty-day venture into the wilderness, which no doubt would have been incredibly difficult physically, mentally, and spiritually. Nor do we hear of the nature of the temptations which he suffered.

We do know however, that upon returning to from his forty days in the wilderness, Jesus was incredibly bold in taking up from where John the Baptist had left off in preaching repentance.

Like Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness, this forty-day period of lent is a tough one for those of us who choose to enter into it. We are often tried physically and spiritually, just as Jesus was.

For us, as for Jesus, this time of trial which paradoxically has the potential to really bolster our resolve, give us a fresh perspective and to strengthen our own capacity for self-mastery.

More than this though, it is an opportunity for us to think of ourselves less and grow in our relationship with the God, creator of all.

This is the good news that he invited us to believe in.

Point to Ponder

“Fasting is the soul of prayer, mercy is the lifeblood of fasting. So if you pray, fast; if you fast, show mercy; if you want your petition to be heard, hear the petition of others. If you do not close your ear to others, you open God’s ear to yourself”

Saint Peter Chrysologus Sermo 43: PL 52, 320. 322

Book Review: Liturgy and Personality – Dietrich von Hildebrand

Below is a review I wrote for Dietrich von Hildebrand’s book Liturgy and Personality, which was recently retranslated and published by the Dietrich von Hildebrand Legacy Project. The review can be found in full at the Downside Review.

 

Liturgy and Personality. By Dietrich von Hildebrand. Steubenville, OH: Hildebrand Press, 2016. Pp. 160. US$17.99. ISBN 9781939773005.

First published in 1932 at the height of the Liturgical Movement, this new translation of philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand’s (1889–1977) classic Liturgy and Personality from the newly founded Hildebrand Press, with a new foreword by Bishop Robert Barron, offers contemporary readers an opportunity to encounter a profoundly contemplative and yet rigorous treatment of the liturgy’s transformative potential.
One time student of famed phenomenological originator Edmund Husserl, Dietrich
von Hildebrand’s conversion to the Catholic faith in 1914 resulted in a multitude of
works on the spiritual life from the unique perspective of phenomenological personalism. Liturgy and Personality is one of his earlier works in Christian spirituality but demonstrates mature thinking concerning the formative role of liturgy in the lives of believers, avoiding the polemics which often accompanied his later works as he sought to clarify various liturgical excesses which followed the Second Vatican Council (1962–1965)… continue reading

11 Feb – 6th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B)

Gospel Mk 1:40-45

“Feeling sorry for him”

Time and again, Jesus is presented to us in the Gospels as an exceptional presence. He does miraculous deeds, and says the most remarkable things. Yet, through it all, his is a presence is amazingly human.

Here we see an astonishingly human encounter – Jesus, moved with pity for the man suffering with leprosy stretches out his hand and touches him. We know of the religious and cultural taboos that Jesus would have broken in this touch, but there is something here that tells us that this is not a merely symbolic gesture.

This is a gesture that is the result of a fully human heart moved by compassion for the other. It is a gesture that effects not only physical healing, but communion.

Italian priest Luigi Giussani wrote that this ‘human reality is God’s means of self-communication.’ God meets us in this human nature which He has gifted to us. And, Giussani continues, ‘what reaches us via the human factor is more than human. It is divine.’

The paradoxical nature of such a statement is perhaps something worth reflecting upon, but the truth of such a claim is witnessed in this story.

Jesus, fully human – the fullness of the human person – is God’s self-revelation to humanity. He reaches out to our human reality; He meets us in our hurt, in our joys, in our need, and in so doing brings to us the Divine; that infinite communion of love which we (often unknowingly) seek.

And this happens in the compassionate encounter with the other.

Point to Ponder

‘[H]uman reality is God’s means of self-communication, what reaches us via the human factor is more than human. It is divine.’

-Luigi Giussani, Why the Church, 163

4 February – 5th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B)

 Gospel Mk 1:29-39

“He took her by the hand and helped her up”

Jesus is now in Capernaum. He’s left behind his home in Nazareth and has begun his work as an itinerant preacher and miracle worker.

One of the things which is so evident in the Gospel stories we are reading is the focus on time and place. In this attention to detail we are constantly reminded that these events are not fictional stories occurring in fictitious places. The historical fact of this man’s existence is something that had an impact on the Gospel writers, and requires a response of us.

His actions, and more simply his very person, are a source of intrigue and astonishment to all who encounter him.

This particular Sabbath day Jesus returns from the Synagogue with his friends. We note that the first thing that they do is inform him of the illness which is afflicting Simon’s mother-in-law. They know that he has the power and the authority to act in this situation.

That evening, after sunset everyone else did the same, bringing to him all who needed healing, trusting that he would have the power, authority and the desire to heal – and he did.

This desire for healing and wholeness is awoken in the face of He who has come amongst us. In this encounter we are made aware our own lack and are moved toward him seeking the healing and wholeness only He can offer. Let us not hesitate in approaching him and imploring his healing and forgiveness.

Point to Ponder

‘It is “God, who is rich in mercy” whom Jesus Christ has revealed to us as Father: it is His very Son who, in Himself, has manifested Him and made Him known to us.’ St Pope John Paul II, Dives in Misericordia, 1

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