Monday, May 23, 2011

5th Sunday of Easter

Gospel: Jn.14:1-12

Jesus said to his disciples:
Do not let your hearts be troubled.
Trust in God and trust in me.
There are many rooms in my Father's house;
if there were not I should have told you.
I am going now to prepare a place for you
and after I have gone and prepared a place,
I shall return to take you with me;
so that where I am you may be too.

In the above few sentences from today's Gospel according to St. John, we are being prepared for the forthcoming celebration of our Lord's Ascension in two weeks time. Jesus is telling us that he is going to prepare a place for us, yes, for each of us individually.

This is truly an amazing statement from Jesus when we really think it through.
We know so well those beautiful and encouraging words of holy Scripture - 'eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered the human heart what things God has prepared for those who love him' - but in today's Gospel passage we receive a new emphasis on that text - Jesus makes it so personal when he tells us 'I am going now to prepare a place for you' - yes, for each one of us individually.
He goes on to add 'in my Father's house, there are many mansions'
Isn't that a very precious and wonderful thought to meditate on? Jesus continues - 'after I have gone and prepared you a place, I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you may be too'.

This is Jesus telling us as clearly as the stars shining in the mid-night sky, how deep and personal his love is for each and every one of us, no matter what we have or have not done to hurt him during our lifetime. It is all too easy when we read this passage of Scripture to overlook the deep longing Jesus has for us, for you, for me, for every one, no exceptions. Let us ponder and treasure in our hearts these consoling words of our loving Lord and Master.

When someone dear to us has been away for a long time, we go out of our way to prepare for their home-coming in every conceivable way - nothing is too much trouble. Finally comes the moment of the arrival of our loved one - who of us can express in words the joy of such a re-union? One of the psalms expresses such an emotion so well 'Cry out with joy to the Lord'.

This is how it is with Jesus, he longs so ardently for us to be with him for ever in a blessed eternity - but we do not have to wait until the next life to enjoy this union - he is with us now in this life, every step of the way, every day, every minute.

Further on in our Gospel passage, Jesus says to Thomas 'you know where I am going and you know the way' ... poor Thomas in his exasperation says: 'Lord, we do not know where you are going so how can we know the way'?

No doubt each one of us feels the frustration of Thomas many times in our lives - as Christians, we set out to follow Jesus in whatever calling he has given us in life, yet the way is seldom clear in the tangle of life with all its ups and downs, joys, sorrows, heartaches,, misunderstandings, to name but a few. Pere Caussade S.J. has some encouraging words to help us when he says:
'God is always at work in our lives in and through other people, unpleasant, no less than pleasant - in and through circumstances distasteful as well as those to our taste. Indeed, God so often uses the most unlikely people and circumstances as a special channel of His Grace and Blessing.

Fr. Caussade goes on to say:
If we only knew','the merit hidden in what each moment of the day brings, how much happier we should be. What consolation, what courage we can draw from the fact that in order to live in God's friendship and be welcomed to the home he has prepared for us in heaven, we need neither do nor suffer anything more that we are already doing or suffering'. At times this can be bordering on more than we can bear - it is not easy, Jesus never said it would be - but he is always with us, and how much we need him - he has told us 'I am with you always, yes, even unto the end of the world.

So let us live in the joy that God is with us, we need him not as an instrument but for our full life, for existence, for love. In order that we may meet him, we need to be very attentive, having open hearts rather than eyes. He travels incognito. Let us live constantly as a child before its father. 'Do not let your hearts be troubled' he pleads ' trust in God and trust in me'.

As we conclude this reflection perhaps we could do no better than pray the last verse of that beautiful hymn: Be thou my vision -
High King of Heaven, thou heaven's bright Sun,
Grant me its joys after victory is won,
Christ of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be my vision, O Ruler of all.

I shall return to take you with me; so that where I am you may be too.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Vocation's Sunday

On this Vocations' Sunday we would like to share with our readers a talk on Vocation Discernment by Sr Mary Teresa - in particular her method of discerning her own vocation and what attracted her to our Order and Monastery - with images from our monastic life. Sr Mary Teresa is currently preparing to make her solemn profession on the 29th of June.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mary Kept all these things in her heart

Since Easter our readings at Mass have been recounting the different appearances of Jesus----That morning on the shore after returning from a nights fishing, the apostles found Him preparing breakfast for them, and heard him call: ' Friends come and have breakfast' (Jh.21). The time he came to the two Apostles on their journey to Emmaus and explained the scriptures to them. The beautiful meeting with Mary Magdelen in the garden in the hush of the silent morning dew when He spoke her name with such tenderness: Mary Why weepest thou? and her glad cry of recognition-----Rabboni ( Jh 20)

Many other appearances are also recorded for us. But what about His own dear Mother? She wasn't with the other women who come early that Easter morning to anoint the Body of Jesus in the tomb. Let us listen to the following extracts taken from A woman wrapped in silence by the poet John W. Lynch:

'------We do not discover she was there
we do not find
her name. She is not mentioned, she who stood
until the last pain passed from Him who had
not failed, nor flagged, nor even made delay
To any need in all His years, she was
not there, who gave him birth, who is his mother
was not there!'

Here in John's home she must wait for Him, as David wrote so long ago
'For God alone my soul in stillness waits' (Psalm 61)

'lonely in the silence and the trust
of silence in her heart that did not seek
or cry or search, but only waited him'

And can we doubt that this Son of so much love did not come to her in the first light of dawn

'when she first lifted
up her eyes, and quiet, unamazed,
saw him near, this is her own, this moment
when he came----will be her own---'

We do not know what words they exchanged or indeed if any words were needed-----'words so deep and intimate that go beyond all words'. Both knew what the other had suffered and their union as redeemer and co-redemptrix will be honoured forever. And now in John's home, Mary continued to keep all these things in her heart, Her soul in stillness, believed and prayed for the young Church entrusted to her maternal care.

What were the thoughts and sentiments of Peter and John and the other 'lads' during these early days and weeks as they looked at this quiet woman walking so bravely among them? They loved her, this dear lady who kept for them all that was precious to them. The memory of the Man who entrusted to them - poor fishermen--- the mission of bringing His good news to the world, "Go out to the whole world proclaiming the good news { Mk. 16}

The memory of the Man who came through closed doors and breathed on them saying: "receive the Holy Spirit {Jh.20} Would they recognise the part Mary played in those days in the words of the poet Gerald M Hopkins The blessed Virgin compared to the air we breathe - perhaps making their sentiments his?

World air, world mothering air
nestling me everywhere-------
she now had this one work to do,
let all Gods glory through.
Gods glory which would go
through her and from her flow off-----
If I have understood
she holds high motherhood
towards all our ghostly good’

And we what are our sentiments? Can we too tune in to these lines and maybe we also wherever we may be
have this one work to do: ‘let all Gods glory through’.

Monday, May 9, 2011

3rd Sunday of Easter - Jesus meets the disciples on the Road to Emmaus

In the story of the journey to Emmaus we encounter two despondent disciples, all hope gone, aimlessly wandering the road, moving as far from the source of their pain as their weary legs would carry them. We encounter too the one who walks with them, gently present to their pain, the one who having met them where they were at, brings the Word of God to bear on their situation, leading them gradually to FAITH which makes it possible for them to recognise Him in the Breaking of Bread.

What this Gospel passage does is to take us on a journey from the darkness of unbelief and incomprehension of God’s ways to the light of faith and to joy in the Risen Lord, a joy to be shared with all the people.

The story of Emmaus shows the disciples profoundly disheartened by the events of the Passion and abandoning Jerusalem the place of their dead dreams. There was in fact no reason for their discouragement. JESUS WAS WITH THEM. But they were unable to recognise him. These two disciples had their minds still fixed on “Jesus the Nazarene, the one who would save them from their Roman occupiers. Jesus had in fact prophesised his resurrection and it had been foretold in Scripture that the Christ should suffer to redeem his people but focused only on their own vision of an earthly liberator they couldn’t go beyond their limited perspective. Jesus wasn’t who he claimed to be because he didn’t meet their immediate needs and expectations they had of Him. They lost all hope because they had no faith. They didn’t believe that Jesus had risen and without faith in the resurrection every thing is meaningless.

Does not this happen to us too? Are there not times when we too become so engrossed in our daily problems that we cannot see a bigger picture or a different solution to the one we envisage? We too can lose faith. We too can fail to see that there is no need for discouragement. Jesus is risen. He is with us.
But thank God the story does not end there. The Risen Jesus is willing to seek out the lost. He joins them and us on the road. He is walking with them but because they don’t believe he is Risen, there is no possibility of their recognising Him. The Risen Jesus can only be encountered through faith. His physical presence is not enough. He cannot be recognised with our physical senses.

He walks with them and joins in their conversation. Is it here that the first movement of grace begins? in an openness to an outsider, a third party, a different viewpoint to our own ?
Jesus joins the disciples and us not because we are good or faithful. The disciples had neither trusted him nor stood by him. He joins them precisely because they are weak and confused, afraid and angry, despondent, rudderless.
Jesus joins his disciples and walks with them at their pace and in their direction. They are heading away from Jerusalem going towards Emmaus. Now Jesus actually wants them in Jerusalem with the others, ready for the mission he is going to entrust to them but he does not stop them or try to turn them round. They are not yet ready to go back. When they are ready they will go back freely and joyfully. And they will only be ready when having exposed the full depth and extent of their betrayal they raise their eyes and encountering that look of infinite tenderness and compassion they recognise Him and know Him to be truly risen.
That encounter only happened because Jesus brought their story and His story together. Jesus takes up their story, changing nothing in it, but gently leads them through the events of Scripture into a new understanding of these same events. In that light the place of Crucifixion becomes the place of Resurrection; the place of death becomes an opening to new life. This is the gift of Faith. In their eyes Jesus Passion and death was a disaster caused by evil people. Now Jesus uncovers for them a deeper reality hiding under these same events. Jesus victory over death is the real liberation. It frees us not only from earthly despots but it sets us free from the tyranny of sin and death. Now as they see this hidden reality with God’s eyes, their hearts begin to burn within them. As Jesus opened the Scripture to them revealing every thing concerning himself, their eyes are opened, and their faith restored they are able to recognise Him in the breaking of bread.
Then he vanished from their sight. He is gone again. Just as when the women went to the tomb and found it empty but of him there was no sign. But what a change. They had left Jerusalem in despair all hope gone. Now they return full of joy. They have experienced the Risen Lord, an experience of the heart, an experience of love, of presence. They no longer need any tangible visible presence of Jesus. They know with the eyes of faith that he is with them. They are indeed a new creation in Christ. They are ready to return to Jerusalem. They have a new inner life and just can’t wait to share their faith .They set out immediately, their hearts burning within them. They do not leave Jesus in Emmaus. They do not leave him anywhere. He is with them, He is in them.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Mercy Sunday

We apologise to our readers for our silence during the past few weeks and belatedly we wish you a blessed Eastertide.

During the last weeks of Lent we spend a lot of time preparing our liturgy. We were very happy to have Fr Gerard Dunne OP, to preside at our celebrations on Palm Sunday, Holy Week ceremonies and Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday morning Eucharist - all of which were very prayerful and inspiring - thanks to the hard work of preparation.

We were not able to celebrate our patronal feast of St Catherine of Siena on the 29th of April as it fell during the Easter Octave - so we celebrate it tomorrow the 2nd of May.

We offer the following reflection which one of our sisters shared at Vespers this evening:

“In the evening of that same day, the doors were closed …Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them ‘Peace be with you’” (Jn 20:19)

Whenever I read this account of the Resurrection, to which we listened at this morning’s Mass, what catches my attention is the fact that Jesus comes to his disciples who are behind locked doors – they are frightened and full of fear – perhaps feeling hurt, let down and isolated – too afraid to reach out to anyone or to let anyone reach them. But into their pain, without any invitation, Jesus appears, shows Himself, reveals Himself, bestows His peace, breathes on them His Spirit and gives them a mission.

In all the Resurrection stories one perceives that Jesus is present to His disciples – though He remains unrecognised until He chooses the moment to reveal Himself and then He vanishes again! – we think of Mary Magdalen, the two disciples on the road to Emmaus; the group on the shore of Tiberius. So too in our own lives – our faith assures us that the Risen Jesus is with His Church and with each of us individually and collectively but we only get glimpses of His Presence – and often we are called to walk in darkness. Often too we are too frightened to invite Him in – just in case He might upset our plans! Or ask too much of us!

In his homily at the beatification this morning Pope Benedict reminded us of Blessed Pope John Paul II’s invitation at his inaugural homily in 1978 when he said:
“Do not be afraid to welcome Christ and accept his power. Do not be afraid. Open wide the doors for Christ. To his saving power open the boundaries of States, economic and political systems, cultures and civilisations.”

At the same inaugural homily he prayed the following “humble and trusting” prayer for himself:
“Christ make me become and remain the servant of your unique power, the servant of your sweet power, the servant of your power that knows no eventide.”

No doubt the sweet and gentle power of Christ is His merciful love which is offered to each of us without reserve but He waits for our acceptance.

During the past two weeks since Palm Sunday we have been celebrating and reflecting on this great love and mercy. It is fitting that today Mercy Sunday should fall this year on the eve of our celebration of the feast of St Catherine (which had to be postponed until after the Easter Octave) who had such faith and trust in God’s mercy and who offered her life for the renewal of the Church. No doubt she is rejoicing in heaven at the beatification of Pope John Paul II – the second pope, in recent history, whose sanctity has been recognised.

Through the intercession of St Catherine and Blessed Pope John Paul II may the Lord be pleased to shower His mercy on our Church and our world and renew in each of us the grace of our Baptism that we may open the doors of our hearts and lives, without reserve, to Jesus who has loved us so much that He died for us and is now risen and walks with us and who lives and loves in and through us!