December-January 2019: Seeing your Life through the Lens of the Gospel

Seeing your Life through the Lens of the Gospel

First Sunday of Advent
1 December 2019

Matthew 24:37-44

1. The ‘coming of the Son of Man’ can be applied to the end of the world, to the moment of death, or to any moment of grace. We are not given advance notice as to when any of these will happen, so the message is to be alert and ready. When have you found that your alertness meant that you were able to receive an unexpected grace (e.g. take an opportunity which presented itself, or respond to a hint from another person that you might easily have missed, etc.)?

2. One of the enemies of alert living is constant busyness. Have you ever found that being caught up in your own agenda makes you less sensitive to what is happening around you? Recall times when you paused in your relentless busyness and were rewarded by a significant interchange with another person, a moment of grace.

3. You probably know the difference between being ready for a visitor and the unannounced caller who catches you unprepared. Let the memory of the discomfort of being caught off guard spur you on to a constant readiness for the coming of the Lord.

John Byrne OSA

Second Sunday of Advent
8 December 2019

Matthew 3:1-12

1. John the Baptist came to bear witness to Jesus. Who have been the people who have borne witness to us of the good news of the gospel that God loves us – a friend, a parent, a teacher, etc.? To whom have we borne that witness?

2. John appears in the story as one who had the courage to be himself in the face of opposition. He was also a person who knew his own value, did not make exaggerated claims and was content with his mission. Can you recall times when you have been content to be yourself, without pretending to be more than you are? What was it like to have that freedom, even in the face of criticism from others?

3. John was ‘the voice of one crying out in the wilderness’ – announcing confidently to those in the wilderness that they must not despair because God’s grace may come to them at any moment. Have you had the experience of being in the wilderness, feeling lost? From whom did you hear a voice that gave you hope? Have you been able to give hope to other people when they were in the wilderness?

John Byrne OSA

Third Sunday of Advent
15 December 2019 • Gaudete Sunday

Matthew 11:2-11

1. In response to the question of John, Jesus let his actions speak for him. Some people show by the way they live what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Who has given you such an example? Perhaps there have been times when you have done the same for others.

2. John made a journey of faith from an incomplete knowledge of Jesus to a deeper understanding of who he was. Recall similar steps in your journey of faith.

3. Faith is not primarily about answering abstract theological questions but about living the gospel. What in your life has helped you to get that sense of perspective?

4. John marked the end of an era, Jesus the beginning of a new one. In our lives how do we honour the past and yet be free to move on into a new era?

John Byrne OSA

Fourth Sunday of Advent
22 December 2019

Matthew 1:18-24

1. As we move into prayer on the passage, we move from consideration of the mystery of how ‘God with us’ was revealed to the world in the person of Jesus 2000 years ago, to a reflection on how we become aware of ‘God with us’ now in our daily lives.

2. It took some time for Joseph to accept the fact that, in Mary, there truly was Emmanuel – God with us. God is with us now, but at times we struggle to perceive God’s presence. Where have you unexpectedly discovered the presence of ‘God with you’? Recall those experiences and give thanks.

3. Joseph was confused and uncertain about what he should do. It took time, and outside help, for him to discern what his next step should be. Perhaps you have also had difficulties along the way to some decisions or commitments. Recall that journey and the moments when it became clear to you what was being asked of you. Give thanks for the angels who helped you along the way.

4. Mary bore Jesus within her, unseen to all, and unacknowledged by most. In Joseph she found one who believed in the treasure that she bore. We can be bearers of Jesus to others, and they to us. When have you been that kind of a bearer of Jesus to another? Who has been that to you?

John Byrne OSA

The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas)
25 December 2019

There is a kind of ‘Christmas’ that is limited to those who have the means to enjoy it; a Christmas that is not for the lowly, the poor and the meek, but for the happy, the healthy and the well-off. The circumstances of Jesus’ birth make it plain that the real Christmas is an inclusive one, embracing all, but especially those whose circumstances are in any way poor and humble. Those who grieve the loss of love ones, those whose tables at Christmas will have an empty space that was filled in earlier years, those who struggle with illness… such people are more, not less, qualified to enter into the spirit
of Christmas.

Near the very end of the Bible, the heavenly Jesus explains his entire project simply and briefly: ‘See, I am making all things new’ (Rev 21:5). This is why Jesus was born, why he took on our human nature, why he endured misunderstanding, opposition and death: so that we might shed everything that is stale and dull, and ‘walk in newness of life’ (Rom 6:4). The risen, heavenly Lord promises ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev 21:1), but for now, as we walk upon this earth, he is our hope and our strength. Even as we contemplate the child in the crib, we can pray to the Lord of glory, ‘Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!’ (Rev 22:20).

Fr Chris Hayden,
O Come, Let Us Adore: Exploring the Crib at Christmas (Veritas, 2010), p. 102

The Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
29 December 2019

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

1. The threat to the child Jesus put Joseph in a situation where he had to make a quick yet wise decision. Perhaps you have also had to make a speedy response to an unexpected crisis. Who were the ‘angels’ who guided you to wise decisions? Remember them and give thanks.

2. The whole narrative is designed to bring out the guidance of God’s providence for the child Jesus. Have there been times when you have been grateful that things worked out well for you despite adverse circumstances or experiences?

3. External forces imposed migration on Joseph and his family, until he came to establish a home in Nazareth. Where have you lived before coming to the place you now call home? How has this journey helped to fashion the person you are now? Perhaps you have a mixture of gratitude and regrets as you look back. Give thanks for the good memories. What helps you to deal with the disappointments and hurts in the past? Bring them to God with a prayer for further healing.

4. The story and today’s feast remind us of the importance of the family in nourishing and fostering new life. Recall and give thanks for those in your own childhood who helped you to find your way in life.

John Byrne OSA

Second Sunday of Christmas
5 January 2020

John 1:1-18

1. John opens his Gospel with a profound reflection on the meaning of creation, of life and of
Jesus. Remember when you had a special awareness of the gift of life that filled you with gratitude to
God for creation, and the beauty and wonder of the world: ‘All things came into being through him and without him not one thing came into being.’

2. We often listen to a reading from the gospels. Sometimes it goes in one ear and out the other. Then there are occasions when it made us feel more alive, times when it helped us see the way ahead, like a light that shines in the darkness. Recall when the gospel gave you hope in the midst of anxiety or sadness and helped you to see what action would be most lifegiving for you and for others

3. Bring to mind people who have had a prophetic voice in the world – speaking the truth for the world to hear, as a witness to testify to the light. Some of these may have been public figures. Others were ordinary people who have helped you see the ‘light’ by the witness of their own lives and words.

4. ‘No one has ever seen God. It is the only Son of God, who is close to the Father’s heart, who has made him know.’ Jesus came to us to teach us about God and put a human face on God for us. For the people of his day, and for us, that was a mission of getting us to think again about how we see God, and to believe in a God of love. Recall how the life and ministry of Jesus have changed your picture of God.

John Byrne OSA

The Epiphany of the Lord
6 January 2020

The wisdom shown by the wise men is not unlimited. Evidently, they are men of good will, yet they represent the quintessentially modern phenomenon of believing without belonging. Indeed, the wise men bear a striking similarity to those who ‘practice their faith at Christmas time’, then disappear as quickly as they have appeared. They have been drawn, intrigued, fascinated, but they have not been captivated. Their mysterious and short-lived presence in the Gospel story offers us both a consolation and a challenge. Jesus Christ is for all. He is not the lord of the virtuous, the pious, the observant, the practicing, but the Lord of all. It is consoling indeed to reflect that God’s providence and love for every human person simply does not admit to being tied down by all-too-human distinctions such as practicing or non-practicing, member or non-member. God is a lover, not a lawyer, and admission to the manger is free.

On a more challenging note, the wise men remind us that departure from the manger is also free, and that having encountered the Lord, we are at liberty to return to a life that is untouched by his presence. It is, in fact, the adult Christ that wins men and women: the Christ who spoke and healed and suffered and died, the Christ who overcame death. The best that the crib can do is revive our nostalgia, sharpen our longing for a real encounter with the risen Lord. But we remain free to pursue this encounter or not to do so; the Lord invites but never imposes.

Fr Chris Hayden,
O Come, Let Us Adore: Exploring the Crib at Christmas (Veritas, 2010), pp. 37-38

The Baptism of the Lord
12 January 2020

Matthew 3:13-17

1. The Baptism of Jesus marks a turning point in his life, and the start of his public ministry. Recall moments when your life changed and you moved into a new phase.

2. The experience was one in which Jesus had a new sense of his own identity. What have been the experiences which have helped shaped your sense of who you are?

3. How have you come to an awareness of being a child of God, beloved by God, one on whom rests the grace of God?

4. It is surprising that Jesus, the Saviour of the world, asks to be baptised by John. The request symbolises his desire to identify with us. At the same time he is filled with the Holy Spirit. That step of identifying with us is an important element in his being able to help us. Have you ever found that when someone identifies with you, it is easier for him/her to help you? Has your ability to identify with others had any impact on your effectiveness in helping others?

John Byrne OSA

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
19 January 2020

John 1:29-34

1. John is one who directs people to Jesus as the one who had a lifegiving message for them. Who have been the people in your life whose example or advice pointed you in the direction of a fuller life? Who has helped you to appreciate the importance of Jesus and his message?

2. In the narrative, John recognised that Jesus had more to offer people than he himself had. John had the humility not to need to be the star of the show. Who have you known with that grounded sense of their own place?

3. John proclaims Jesus as one who takes away the sin of the world. Who have been the people who,
for you, continued this mission of Jesus and led you from sin and guilt to forgiveness and freedom? For whom have you done this?

4. It was not just on the cross that Jesus gave his life as the Lamb of God. His public ministry was a constant struggle against injustice and oppression. When have you shared in this mission of Jesus? Who have been models of this for you?

John Byrne OSA

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time
26 January 2020 • Catholic Schools Week begins today

Matthew 4:12-23

1. ‘The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light’ … Jesus applies this to himself and his message. Who have been the Jesus people who have been a source of light to you? Have you been such a light for others?

2. His message was a call to repentance, to a change of attitude toward God, from seeing God as one to be feared, to seeing God as a God of love. When have you heard that call in your life? What was it like for you?

3. Jesus invited disciples to join him in his mission. In responding, the disciples ‘left their nets’ to follow Jesus. Sometimes we have to disentangle ourselves from other things to give ourselves freely and wholeheartedly to a commitment. Have you experienced being ‘enmeshed’ and being free? Where did you find life?

4. In v. 23 we have a summary of the ministry of Jesus – ‘proclaiming the good news of the kingdom’ and witnessing to this by teaching and healing. Who have been the people you have known who have witnessed to the ‘kingdom’, the reign of God in our world? What have been the signs that accompanied their witness? When have you done this yourself?

John Byrne OSA