Newsletter Resources – August

Sunday, 6 August 2017 

SEEING YOUR LIFE THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS 

Matthew 17:1-9

  1. The transfiguration experience was one that, for Jesus, clarified his relationship with his Father and strengthened him for the future. It was also a moment of deep revelation for the disciples. What have been the experiences, the moments of insight, which for you have clarified your sense of who you are, and what is your relationship with God?
  2. The disciples were prepared for the experience by getting an invitation from Jesus to come apart, to withdraw to the mountain. Have there been times when going apart has been an important element in preparing you for a deep experience?
  3. On the mountain the disciples saw Jesus in a new way. His appearance changed. Sometimes in friendship there are moments of sharing in which we get to know a friend in a new and deeper way. Have you had that experience in human friendship, or in your relationship with Jesus and God. Recall when that happened, and what it was like for you.
  4. After their special experience the disciples came down the mountain again. We cannot live each day at the level of special spiritual experiences, but the memory of them can strengthen us in difficult times. What memories encourage you in time of trouble?

John Byrne OSA

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

 

MUSINGS: Being Transfigured

From the event of the Transfiguration I would like to take two significant elements that can be summed up in two words: ascent and descent. We all need to go apart, to ascend the mountain in a space of silence, to find ourselves and better perceive the voice of the Lord. This we do in prayer. But we cannot stay there! Encounter with God in prayer inspires us anew to ‘descend the mountain’ and return to the plain where we meet many brothers and sisters weighed down by fatigue, sickness, injustice, ignorance, poverty both material and spiritual. To these brothers and sisters in difficulty, we are called to bear the fruit of that experience with God, by sharing the grace we have received.

Pope Francis

Like Jesus, we need places where we hear the words ‘you are my son, daughter, and the beloved’. We know too that if we believe that, our lives will be challenged. Whenever we climb the mountain of the Lord, make any journey with him, we are changed. As every mountain is different, every moment with the Lord is well worthwhile! Someone said, ‘Every time I pray I think of … and I know I must be kinder!’

Donal Neary SJ

 

The Deep End – The Mountain Top

In the Scriptures, the mountains are often places where people encounter God. Jesus takes the disciples up to the mountain top to pray, to a quiet place, away from all the attention and the crowds. They have the most wonderful experience as we read in the Gospel today.
Can you recall a place where you have felt deep peace or a sense of experiencing God? In nature or in the places you go for some ‘time-out’ for yourself? Perhaps it is in special moments with family and friends; times of joy or sorrow. These ‘mountain-top’ experiences nourish us, can bring us insights or help us to deal with difficult periods in our lives. They can bring feelings of euphoria, deep joy and blessing and often sustain us in life. No wonder the disciples wanted to build ‘three dwellings’ so that Moses, Elijah and Jesus would stay with them like this forever. However, we cannot remain in those experiences forever. Jesus’ way involves both time for encounters with mystery but also coming down from the mountain and continuing on life’s journey and mission.
Can we carve out these moments of quiet in our busy days to be with the Word, to create the space to listen and make room for these encounters with the Lord? This week, imagine yourself in this story as you read ‘Jesus took me with him and went up on the mountain to pray …’
‘To pray the scriptures is to descend to the level of the heart and find God’
– MICHAEL CASEY OCSO

Jane Mellet
melletj@gmail.com

 

Sunday, 13 August 2017

SEEING YOUR LIFE THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

Matthew 14:22-33

  1. The story illustrates the power of faith. Have you noticed that when you believe in someone, or something, you can do things that would not be possible when you are full of doubts? Recall moments when your faith gave you strength and courage? Name for yourself the different kinds of faith that had this effect: belief in yourself, trust in another, faith in God.
  2. When Jesus got into the boat the winds ceased. Who has been a Jesus person for you and helped to calm a storm that frightened you or made you anxious?
  3. The experience of Peter gives encouragement to us when we waver in our trust and belief in God. In his doubt and fear Jesus reached out to him. Who has reached out a helping hand to you when you felt you were sinking?
  4. The story ends with a profession of faith in Jesus as the Son of God. Have you had experiences of being rescued from some hazard or danger, experiences which deepened your faith in the presence and compassion of God for you?

John Byrne OSA

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

 

MUSINGS: Looking at Jesus

I’m fascinated by the first step of Peter as he climbed over the side of the boat. He was looking at Jesus, not at the water. His mind was charged with Jesus’ invitation ‘Come.’ So often the way out of depression, fear or anxiety is not a thought or a consideration but a physical step. I take a risk and find myself strong enough to walk forward, keeping my eyes on the Lord.

From Sacred Space – The Prayer Book 2017, www.sacredspace.ie
Messenger Publications

There is an African American saying that we are always either going into a storm, in a storm, or coming out of a storm. Disciples are those who are learning to call on Jesus the Son of God in all three conditions. When our boat is battered by waves, we can call on Jesus. When our boat is far from land, we can call on Jesus. When our boat has the wind against it, we can call on Jesus. He knows our sufferings. He is approaching. He is present and able to offer assistance. He has been here all along. The question is, how are we going to respond to that knowledge?

Are we going to keep focusing on the wind and the waves, or on the outstretched hand of our Lord?

Alyce M. McKenzie

 

The Deep End – Back to the Mountain Top

Jesus once again goes to the mountain top to pray. We too are encouraged to carve out space and time out in our everyday lives for quiet, for reflection for prayer or meditation; for whatever it is that we do to nourish that deeper spiritual heart of ourselves. It is so important.
The famous story of Jesus walking on the water follows in the Gospel today.
What a shock the disciples must have received! Initially Peter is so brave and enthusiastic. Peter is able to walk on the water until he notices the wind, then fear takes over and he begins to sink.
If you have read the book The Shack (and if you haven’t I highly recommend it!) you might remember a scene where the main character, Mack, is led onto the water by Jesus and they walk together on the lake. Mack, like Peter in today’s Gospel, is full of fear, mostly about what might happen in the future. Jesus is clear to Mack that he lives in the present and that we waste time trying to play God and control what might happen in the future: ‘You neither believe I am good nor know deep in your heart that I love you. You sing about it, you talk about it, but you don’t know it’ (The Shack, p. 151)
Jesus’ message for Mack in the story; for Peter in the Gospel and for all of today is ‘Why did you doubt?’ What eliminates our awareness of the love of God? We are urged to keep our eyes fixed on him. It is in the present that Jesus lives, not in our fears about the future or worries about the past.

Jane Mellet
melletj@gmail.com

 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

SEEING YOUR LIFE THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

Matthew 15:21-28

  1. Having met with rejection from the Pharisees Jesus goes to Gentile territory and encounters faith in an unexpected place, in the Canaanite woman. His mission had previously been to his own people. This adds a new dimension to his mission. Have you had occasions when a chance encounter set your life off in a new direction?
  2. The initial reaction of Jesus to the woman was one of rejection but her persistence won a response from him. When have you found that persistence was needed to gain what you sought? What did that experience teach you?
  3. In our days, welcoming the stranger is a challenge. We are more comfortable with our own. What difference has it made when you were able to offer a friendly welcoming face to a stranger?
  4. Who are the ‘Canaanite women’ who call out for attention today – people in Church or State whose needs are not being attended to?

John Byrne OSA

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

 

MUSINGS: Crumbs from the table

She was a lady like many – the woman of the Gospel today. She would fight for her child. So she took on Jesus, the best known religious figure around. Like someone taking on the Taoiseach over a medical card for a chronically ill child, and not letting him off the hook.

Jesus was testing her. He saw faith, but he wanted everyone else to see it. So he told her she didn’t fit into the local religious sphere because she was foreigner, an asylum seeker or a refugee. Or a lone mother who had a bad name. She knew she fitted into the heart of Jesus simply because she was the mother of a sick child. Jesus cured her child and praised her faith. She is another of the unnamed ones of the Gospel. Like the woman of Samaria, the rich young man, the thief on Calvary – she is herself, and she is all of us. She is everyone, man and woman, of faith.

Faith in a surprising God who in Jesus his Son never says no to goodness. Faith that keeps us energetic and alive, not tired, in soul as well as body.

Lord, I believe, strengthen my faith.

Donal Neary SJ

 

Fear knocked on the door, faith answered. There was no one there.

Dr Martin Luther King Jnr

 

The Deep End – Unexpected Encounters

We might wonder why Jesus is so rude and dismissive to the woman in today’s Gospel who comes and asks for his help. Does he really call the woman ‘a dog’?! Many explanations have been given for Jesus’ words with some suggesting that it was an attempt at a first century joke, that he was just ‘teasing’ (he didn’t really mean it!) or that it was an opportunity to test the woman’s faith. The disciples also clearly want her sent away.
What happens just before this incident is important. Jesus has just left Gennesaret where the Pharisees have continued to be extremely hostile towards him. Jesus’ mission to ‘the lost sheep of the House of Israel’ is not going so well. So, Jesus ‘leaves that place’ and goes somewhere that is unfamiliar. What happens in this unfamiliar place is certainly life giving for the woman and for Jesus also. It might be considered a place of new beginnings as Jesus’ mission is opened up to those who would have been considered ‘unworthy’, such as a woman who is also a foreigner. The food rejected by the religious leaders of the time is ending up in unexpected places. It is here that the kingdom grows.
You have to admire the woman’s persistence. She is a reminder of people we encounter who have great faith and make a deep impression on us.
We might ask ourselves today: when have experiences of rejection in our own lives led to new possibilities? Where are the unfamiliar places that we must go in order to grow, to embrace new life and new experiences?

 

Sunday, 27 August 2017

SEEING YOUR LIFE THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

Matthew 16:13-20

  1. This marks a turning point in the life of Jesus, and of the disciples. It is the first time that his disciples recognise him as the Messiah. Recall turning points in your own life when you came to some deeper understanding of who Jesus is.
  2. ‘Who do you say that I am?’ This is possibly the most important question that Jesus puts to us. In your heart of hearts, how do you answer this question?
  3. Jesus praises Peter for his faith and comments that this was not his own doing but a gi of God. Perhaps there have been times when you have been more than usually conscious that faith is a gift. Be thankful for the gift you have received.
  4. These are troubled times for the Church and the promise of Jesus that ‘the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it’ are an encouragement. What helps you to draw strength from this promise of Jesus? What signs of hope do you see in the Church today?

John Byrne OSA

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

MUSINGS: Who am I for you?

What does this story tell us? Jesus wanted a response to his question who am I for you? He had spent time with people and some have accepted him. Peter’s was the remark of faith. Faith is in the person of Jesus before any creed. Our faith is based on Jesus not on the Church. It is knowing Jesus from the inside – knowing who he really is with the knowledge of the heart.

Is our faith just like a birthmark or a way of life and love? For some it is just a birthmark. A label for birth, marriage and death. It has become more like this in Ireland and the Church in many ways allows this.

Who is Christ for me? The question that will ground our faith.

We are here for partnership with the Lord in bringing on the reign of God.

What would that look like? That people who care for each other and particularly for the old, the child, the weaker, the unborn and the refugee. The Church is the community where the weakest are welcomed. The son of the living God is the one who heals, cures, wants us, and is the human face of God. We are that too – he has no body now on earth but ours!

Donal Neary SJ

 

The Deep End – Who do you say I am?

Peter gets it right in today’s Gospel and Jesus calls him ‘blessed’. That is, he is a person who brings a great gift and who brings that gift to others. Already in the community that Matthew is writing for, the community of Jesus’ followers are gathering as ‘church’. Peter is seen as Jesus’ successor and future leader for that community.
Jesus is a very different Messiah to the one the Jews expected. It is understandable that he would order the disciples to keep quiet. The people of his time wanted a leader who would lead them in a military revolt against the Romans, who would be a great king. Jesus’ mission involves a very different focus, reaching out to the outcast, those on the margins, a radical love. His actions will speak for who he is. It is for each of us to make up our own minds as to who Jesus is. Peter is quite clear and sincere in his declaration, however, as we will see later, Peter did not understand fully what the journey of Jesus would entail. Peter commits himself but it is a reminder that we must always leave room for growth in the understanding of our commitments.
‘The joy of Jesus bursts out … and he speaks his dream of an impregnable community of faith held together by the power of God rather than by external organisation, a community of commitment and freedom.’
W. YEOMANS

A question to focus on today might be: ‘Who do YOU say that Jesus is?’ What is Jesus for you, today, in your life at this precise moment?

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