February 2020: The Deep End
The Deep End
The Presentation of the Lord
2 February 2020 • World Day for Consecrated Life
It was an important day for this little family, when Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem. Did they expect everything to go smoothly, or had they already had to let go of some of their dreams and plans? After all, the story of Jesus’ birth had already been unusual, not to mention the shepherds turning up to visit the newborn Messiah. Still, they could not have expected two elderly people to suddenly appear in the Temple with a message about their child – that he was going to do great things but also would be rejected and cause great pain to his mother. Was it at this moment that they realised life would never be the same again?
The most important messages can come from unexpected sources. Anna and Simeon were advanced in years, wise and devout people who had lived well, and still hoped and trusted in God’s plan. This encounter was unexpected for them too, taking place close to the end of their lives; but they were ready, willing and able to recognise its significance. Their call was to be among the first people to encounter the Messiah and to share the Good News. What is our call? The story of Anna and Simeon shows us the value of being open to an encounter with Jesus. Despite what we have been through, or what stage we are at in life, there are good things to come. Each of us has something unique to offer. We pray that we will recognise the unexpected opportunities to encounter God that come our way.
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Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
9 February 2020
This little light of mine …
I’m gonna let it shine! Perhaps you are familiar with this popular hymn. It is often used in children’s liturgies, and was in fact written as a gospel song for children in the 1920s. It later became something of an anthem for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 60s, associated in particular with civil rights leader Fannie Lou Hamer. The song was seen as a way of expressing unity, as people fought for equal rights and freedom.
‘This Little Light of Mine’ is based on the words of Matthew’s Gospel that we hear today: ‘No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub… your light must shine in the sight of men.’ Without the light of those who were part of the civil rights movement, our world would be a very different place. There are good people everywhere who continue to fight for justice and freedom, who use their ‘light’ to help others and make sure people are treated fairly and with dignity – both those who campaign and speak out about injustice, and the people on the ground who support the sick, the homeless, refugees and others experiencing difficulties. Witnessing so much suffering, it might be tempting for these ‘people of light’ to become disheartened, but they carry on, using their compassion and skills to bring about change, shining their light in the darkness. As followers of Christ, we are called to light up the world. Take some time this week to think about how you can let your light shine.
‘A community of Jesus which seeks to hide itself has ceased to follow him.’
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Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
16 February 2020
The bare minimum
There are times when we try to get by with the bare minimum. Maybe we have scraped through an exam with the minimum of effort, or done a last-minute rush job to complete a work project. Plenty of us know what it’s like to do just enough around the house to keep it from descending into total chaos!
Perhaps unconsciously, we sometimes take the same approach to our relationships – only phoning a parent once in a blue moon to ‘check in,’ or visiting a friend only when we are reminded. It can be easy to slip into a pattern of acting out of a sense of duty rather than love.
Of course, our faith can go the same way. Are there times when we approach the Eucharist with a niggling feeling that something is not quite right? If so, Jesus has some strong words for us in today’s Gospel. If we believe that all we are expected to do is ‘follow the rules,’ we have missed something important. Jesus does not want us to merely follow the letter of the law. Where is the joy or the challenge in that? He tells us that our virtue must go deeper than simply doing the bare minimum. Not only must we not kill, we must not be angry with others. Not only must we not break a promise, we must be honest in all our dealings and in our speech. If we approach the altar without being on good terms with others, we are not in true communion with God.
Obeying the rules is the bare minimum. The Gospel is calling us to a more radical way of living.
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Seventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
23 February 2020 • Day of Prayer for Temperance
The power of forgiveness ‘I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge. Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. She’s in heaven and we shall meet again. I will pray for these men tonight and every night.’ These words of Gordon Wilson echoed across the world in 1987, just hours after his 20-year-old daughter Marie was killed in an IRA bomb in Enniskillen. Very few words in the history of the Northern Ireland conflict had such a powerful impact. His extraordinary capacity to forgive the people who had caused him so much pain helped to move along the slow process.’
Gordon Wilson was the personification of the words of Jesus: ‘love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.’ It is one of the most difficult and challenging passages in the Gospels; one commentator calls it ‘Jesus’ most unreasonable command.’ Living under oppressive Roman rule, with torture and murder not uncommon, the disciples knew what it was to hate their enemies. As we read and listen to the news today, the cruelty of people continues to astound and upset us. But Jesus reminds us that everyone is human. All are children of God, who ‘causes his sun to rise on bad men as well as good.’ While we clearly don’t accept or excuse the terror and evil in the world, we cannot dehumanise those who carry out despicable actions. It is much easier said than done, but we must strive to meet hatred with love. With God, there is always forgiveness; there is always hope.
‘Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.’
Martin Luther King Jr