Newsletter Resources – July

Sunday, 2 July 2017

SEEING YOUR LIFE THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

Matthew 10:37-42

  1. Jesus never wanted suffering for anyone but he knew that if anyone was going to follow in his footsteps promoting love and respect for every person, they would meet with opposition. Fidelity has its price, but also rewards. Would you agree?
  2. The passage is a call to both radical and practical discipleship. When have you found that in order to achieve a certain objective you had to make it a priority, and then take the practical steps necessary to reach your goal? What were the benefits to you when you did this?
  3. ‘Hate’ is prophetic exaggeration for the uncompromising loyalty Jesus seeks in disciples. There may be times when people make demands in conflict with fidelity to another relationship. This can be painful. When have you found that being clear about your priorities helped you in that situation?

John Byrne OSA

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

 

MUSINGS:

Anyone who welcomes you welcomes me

Welcome is at the heart of today’s readings but in 2017 what is a host’s obligation to his or her guests? What should the good host do?

Greet guests at the door. We don’t have to offer bread and salt to symbolise protection, but a warm handshake, a friendly hug are symbols of welcoming that set the stage.

Facilitate conversation. Introduce guests who don’t know each other and offer conversation starters: ‘Mary didn’t you just go to Tuscany? I think John and Joan are planning a trip next spring.’

Watch over guests and make sure they are enjoying themselves, but if they enjoy themselves too much, be prepared to step in and take them home. Safety trumps everything else. Remain calm. Even in the face of a disaster – the grill ran out of gas before the steak was even turned – the good host is poised and adapts to the circumstances. Calmness – and sense of humour – radiates and affects everyone else.

Be flexible and gracious. The worst guest faux pas is to arrive with uninvited guests, but the gracious host rolls with the punch and sets an extra place.

Be appreciative. Makes sure to say good night to each guest and thank them for coming. Doing so sets the stage for the next get-together.

A thought for the Sunday celebrant?

Peter Post – The E-word

 

THE DEEP END – A cup of water

Life is busy. Whether we are in school, college, working, or juggling family life with all sorts of other commitments, there is sometimes little time to pause and take stock of things. It can be hard to find time to reflect on how our faith is faring. When we do get a minute to assess things, do we find ourselves wanting? Many of us have the idea that 
we would like to live better lives, to be more caring, to help those in need. We would like to live up to what Jesus asks of us, if only we had time to do more. This desire to do better is an important element of our Christian journey. But often we imagine that this will require some sort of grand gesture or dramatic change of direction.
If we are paralysed or overwhelmed by what we can’t do, Jesus has some good news for us today. A cup of water isn’t much, and offering hospitality to a stranger might not seem like a big deal, but that is where Jesus starts. Instructing his twelve disciples, he tells them that anyone who welcomes them or offers them a cup of cold water will be rewarded. What’s more, he adds that anyone who welcomes them in fact welcomes Jesus, the one who sent them. Small acts of kindness and hospitality have significance beyond what we might expect. No matter how busy we are, there are opportunities every day to offer a cup of water here, or a helping hand there. All these small things play their part in building up God’s kingdom.

 

Sunday, 9 July 2017

SEEING YOUR LIFE THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

Matthew 11:25-30

  1. For Jesus the key to a personal knowledge of God and relationship with God is not primarily through academic study but through a mind and heart open to learn. Recall moments when you had a sense that your relationship with God took a significant step forward. What kind of dispositions prepared you for that growth?
  2. Jesus was dealing with a society in which people were very conscious of status, dignity and external appearances. He wanted to break down the barriers this created so that all would be aware of their worth and dignity. Perhaps you can recall someone who was not highly thought of in human terms, but who was a light to you.
  3. In v.27 Jesus lets us into the secret of his relationship with his Father, one of total trust. This trust freed him from anxiety and worry about himself. As a result he was a person of gentle and humble heart and was able to bring rest to those who were overburdened. recall people whose trust in God enabled them to be supportive to others who were stressed or burdened. Perhaps you have experienced this yourself?
  4. recall and give thanks for people who, like Jesus in the story, were able to combine challenge with sympathetic support and understanding. Perhaps you have been able to do this for others at times also.

John Byrne OSA

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

 

MUSINGS: I will give you rest

In today’s Gospel Jesus offers a lifeline. ‘Come to me,’ he says. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? And yet we find it difficult to believe that reaching out to Jesus can make a difference.

Lord, you invite us to take your hand walk with you; how stubborn we can be sometimes. Help us to receive your whispered invitation and respond with faith.

Jesus is inviting those who are not in the comfort zone, who feel oppressed by anxiety and uncertainty.

Lord, I do not ask that you bring my life completely under control; to be mortal is to face uncomfortable realities. I beg you to be my uncomfortable comfort zone.

Saint Ignatius thought that a thick and shapeless tree trunk would never believe that it could become a statue, admired as a miracle of sculpture, and would never submit itself to the chisel of the sculptor, who sees by her genius what she can make of it.

I ask for grace to let myself be shaped by my loving Creator.

FromSacred Space – The Prayer Book 2017 www.sacredspace.ie

Messenger Publications

 

The Deep End – Rest for your souls

Pope Francis had some strong words of advice recently for priests. As he ordained ten men to the priesthood on Good Shepherd Sunday, he said in his homily: ‘A priest who has perhaps studied much theology and has achieved one or two or three advanced degrees, but has not learned to carry the Cross of Christ, is useless: he will be a good academic, a good professor, but not a priest. Please, I ask you in the name of Christ and of the church to be merciful, always: do not saddle the faithful with burdens they cannot carry – nor ought you so burden yourselves.’
He must have been thinking of the extract from Matthew’s Gospel that we hear today, where Jesus talks about the exact opposite of laying burdens on people – he promises to take them away, and to lighten our load.
I don’t think Jesus is saying that the Christian life is always going to be easy, that there will not be burdens or crosses to carry, or that we should not hold ourselves to high standards. Rather, he is reminding us that when we find ourselves overburdened – tired, frustrated, afraid, overwhelmed, disheartened – help is at hand. He invites us to come to him, and to unload our troubles onto him. He is a place of rest for our weary souls. With Jesus on board, our minds and hearts will be lighter, and we can get on with our tasks with renewed energy and zeal.

 

Sunday, 16 July 2017

SEEING YOUR LIFE THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

Matthew 13:1-23

  1. Jesus uses parables to make people think about their own responses to his message. As you read this parable you may recognize that at different times you have been like each of the different types of soil. As you recall times when you presented fertile soil for the Word of God, what helped you create that receptive atmosphere? What lessons for life do you get from that?
  2. Parents with children, teachers with pupils, speakers with listeners, are all like sowers in a field where the preparation of the soil is up to another – the child, pupil or listener. They can sow the seed but cannot guarantee that it will bear fruit. At times there may be a temptation not to try any more. The challenge is to sow in hope. When have you been surprised by the harvest you have reaped?
  3. ‘We are wasting our time here’ may sometimes be the apparent wisdom in a group. Have there been times when you have gone against this apparent wisdom and seen your efforts bear fruit?

John Byrne OSA

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

 

MUSINGS: The Good Seed

Although the life of a person is in a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.

Pope Francis

Jesus’ parable of the sower is aimed at the people who listen, or ignore, his word. There are different ways of hearing God’s word and they produce different kinds of fruit.

Working too hard to have time to hear God’s word: There is the prejudiced hearer who has a shut mind. Such a person is unteachable and blind to the things of God.

The shallow hearer fails to think things out or think them through and lacks spiritual depth. They may initially respond with an enthusiasm, but when it wears off their mind wanders to something else.

Another type of hearer is the person who has many interests or cares, but lacks the ability to hear or comprehend what is truly important. Such a person is forever too busy to pray or too preoccupied to study and meditate on God’s word. They may work so hard that they are too tired to even think of anything else but their work.

Then there is the one whose mind is open. Such a person is at all times willing to listen and to learn. He or she is never too proud or too busy to learn. They listen in order to understand.

From Women in the Bible by Elizabeth Fletcher

 

The Deep End – The generous sower

Can you picture it? I love the image of Jesus sitting in a boat, addressing the crowds on the beach. He certainly knew how to hold their attention. And he knew they would understand him more clearly if he used the language of stories. Those listening would have been familiar with the cycle of planting seeds and waiting for them to produce a crop. One of the purposes of parables is to challenge the hearers to reflect and respond with faith.
So this parable of the sower requires Jesus’ audience to decide what kind of soil they are. There is a message of judgment for those who are hardened like the rocky soil, and a message of hope for those who are receptive like the rich soil.
The figure of the sower is important too. The sower does not confine the seeds to soil that is fertile and ready for growth. rather, the seeds are scattered everywhere – on the path, patches of rock, and among thorns. Jesus does not discriminate. His love is given out for all. He knows that some of it may be rejected, or accepted only on a superficial level, but he offers it anyway.
That offer of love is never withdrawn. It might take a while to bear fruit, but it is always there.
‘Always there are doors that are not closed. Look for the doors that are at least a little bit open, enter and talk about common things and go on. Step by step.’
Pope Francis

 

Sunday, 23 July 2017

SEEING YOUR LIFE THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

Matthew 13:24-43

  1. The owner of the field who allowed the wheat and the darnel to grow together is a reminder to us to be patient with ourselves and with others when we see everything is not right. Sometimes a preoccupation with the negative (the darnel) can blind us to seeing the positive in our own lives and in the lives of others. When have you found that a willingness to live with the messiness of the present created the conditions for future growth?
  2. Have you ever found that it was through accepting the darnel that you learned important lessons for life, e.g., learning by making mistakes, or asking stupid questions, or taking foolish risks?
  3. The parables of the mustard seed and the leaven are reminders that seemingly insignificant things can have very positive results. Have you ever been surprised by the benefit to yourself or others of a kind gesture, a small initiative, or a word of encouragement?

John Byrne OSA

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

 

MUSINGS: Let them both grow

Did you ever think that perhaps your faults have some benefits? We get discouraged when we go to confession (did I say ‘go to confession?’) and discover we are saying the same old things over and over again. In this Sunday’s parable Jesus says that the weeds can exist side by side with the wheat and God will sort it out at the end of our lives.

Along the way it just may be that our faults have some benefit. First, they keep us humble. Second, they keep us honest so that we don’t approach others with judgment. And our faults can remind us to treasure our virtues and use them to love others. There is value knowing both our capacity for evil and our capacity for good.

Do you want to go to heaven? God wants you to go to heaven. God has made his decision. God wants you to live with him forever. Have you made your decision? Have you cast your lot with Christ? Have you humbly and honestly faced your faults and taken the higher road of virtue in dealing with others? Have you been astute to the presence of the Evil One sowing dissent and bitterness in your heart? Have you been to confession recently?

May the Lord give you peace.

Rev. James M. Mcnamara, The Long Island Catholic

 

The Deep End – Changing the world

In 2009, the first Darkness Into Light event in aid of Pieta House took place in Dublin’s Phoenix Park. Around 400 people walked the 5km course that year to raise funds for the suicide prevention charity. Fast forward to May this year, and more than 130,000 people took part in 150 Darkness Into Light events across Ireland and worldwide. Many of us will know someone who took part, or we may have got involved ourselves this year. As the crucial message of hope and solidarity filters out from these events, who knows how many lives have been saved or transformed over the years?
Darkness Into Light is a great example of a movement which has grown from a small seed of an idea into a major force for good. The parable of the mustard seed, which we hear today, shows us that fantastic things can emerge from the most modest of beginnings, ‘the smallest of all seeds’. The disciples who first heard Jesus speak were ordinary people – not the religious leaders of the time or those in positions of power or influence. But they were the seeds from which the Church would grow down through the ages. Each act of kindness or forgiveness, each time we spread the Good news of Jesus in our own way, we are hastening the spread of God’s kingdom. These seeds grow and multiply, and bear abundant fruit even if we cannot always see the results. We can’t change the world in one go – but we can change our world.

 

Sunday, 30 July 2017

SEEING YOUR LIFE THROUGH THE LENS OF THE GOSPELS

Matthew 13:44-52

  1. Have you ever found yourself saying ‘that was worth it’ after giving up something (time, pleasure, money, etc.)? What was the treasure that made the sacrifice worthwhile?
  2. The ‘kingdom of heaven’ is when God is really the ruler in our life. What treasures have you obtained when you allow God to be at the centre of your life?
  3. In life we gather a lot of things, some good and some bad. The wise person in the kingdom of heaven knows how to sit down and make decisions on what to keep and what to discard. When have you undertaken that kind of discernment? What have you discarded? What have you retained?

John Byrne OSA

Email jpbyrneosa@gmail.com

 

MUSINGS: Hidden Treasure

‘A parable leaves you with sufficient doubt about its meaning to tease the mind into active thought.’

C.H. Dodd

 

Hidden or buried treasure sounds like an adventure story. This is intended by Jesus. Finding the kingdom of God is like an adventure in which there is a treasure that we did not expect to find, that fills us with wonder and tension and drama. Not everyone finds this treasure, which is what makes the story exciting. Jesus could have said that the man dug up the treasure and took what he wanted and left the rest out in the field for others to find easily, but he doesn’t. The man hides the treasure again.

We who find the treasure of the kingdom of God will come to understand (whether immediately or over time), that it is more valuable than all that we have – all that our lives consist of. The treasure of the kingdom of God does not fit nicely or easily into the lives that we have already constructed for ourselves.

Treasure stories are all about disrupted lives. One cannot discover hidden treasure and remain the same or continue, in an undisrupted way, to live the life one has always lived. In a sense, the measure of the disruption of our former lives is also a measure of the meaning of the treasure we have found. Some of us, perhaps, have not yet discovered the treasure that is worth exchanging our lives for.

The Parable of the Hidden Treasure – Pete Bauer

 

The Deep End – Treasures and pearls

In the immediate aftermath of the horrific bomb attack in Manchester on 22 May this year, the hashtag #roomformanchester began to trend on social media. In the midst of the chaos and terror, locals were opening up their homes and hearts to anyone who had been affected by the incident and was in need of help. People who lived nearby offered food or a cuppa, a place to charge phones, or a bed for the night. Hotels took in dozens of children and teenagers who had been separated from their parents. Taxi drivers offered free lifts, and others offered to drive those who had been stranded home to surrounding areas. People began to queue up at donor banks to give blood to help those injured in the attack. In the face of an evil and senseless act that inflicted so much pain, kindness and goodness shone through.
Difficult times often bring out the best in people. We see it in the way friends rally around a bereaved family, or communities raise money to help a sick child. There are treasures in our people and our communities that we could never put a price on. Jesus talks today about hidden treasures and fine pearls, and prompts the question – what is most important to us, and what are we willing to sacrifice for it? Sometimes treasures like compassion and love are there for all to see, and other times they are hidden or buried and we have to go in search of them, and to remember to bring them to others. The kingdom of God is always close at hand and within each of us.

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