February 2021: The Deep End
The Deep End
Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time
7 February 2021
Jesus the Healera
In today’s Gospel we read about Jesus’ first healing in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus hears of the illness of the mother of Simon’s wife and goes to her. Due to the purity laws of his time this scene would have been considered controversial. His first healing is of a woman and we are told that he touches her, raises her up; he completely restores her to health. Many of his actions here would have been considered inappropriate.
The ‘whole city’ was crowded around the door as many people wanted to be healed. What a commotion! Jesus, very early on in his ministry is clearly a very popular and attractive figure. Another important aspect of this story is that Jesus does not remain comfortable in this house. He keeps moving, keeps going outward. This requires so much energy and an outpouring of love for those in need. Jesus shows us in today’s Gospel what it takes to stay energised for our various ministries: quiet time and space for real encounter with God. Even then, the people hunted for him and said, ‘Everyone is searching for you’, and still today, everyone is searching.
We too are called to bring healing to others in any way that we can, to those who are seeking, those who are lost, those who are isolated. Jesus shows us that to do this we must be connected to that Divine Presence within us and in our world. Today we can ask ourselves, what do I need healing from? Bring this to Jesus in prayer. And also, how can I reach out, with a healing presence, to others, especially during this time of pandemic?
‘I ask God to prepare our hearts to encounter our brothers and sisters, so that we may overcome our differences rooted in political thinking, language, culture and religion. Let us ask him to anoint our whole being with the balm of his mercy, which heals the injuries caused by mistakes, misunderstandings, and disputes. And let us ask him for the grace to send us forth, in humility and meekness, along the demanding but enriching path of seeking peace’. (Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, 254)
Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time
14 February 2021 • Day of Prayer for Temperance
‘Stretched out his hand…’
Jesus, in today’s Gospel, cures a leper by the healing touch of his hand. A leper was completely outcasted from society due to the huge stigma surrounding the disease, which was highly contagious but was also seen as a punishment from God in Jesus’ time. Jesus is moved with pity for this man and reaches out to him. Jesus sends the man to the priests, as a testimony to them. Jesus’ ‘pity’ also conveys anger at the leper’s situation. It is the religious hierarchy of Jesus’ time who have alienated this man. What they are incapable of doing (healing him), Jesus has done by ‘stretching out his hand’ in love.
A question for us from this Gospel today might be, who are those our society outcast? Who is alienated in our communities? What moves you with pity? Who is it that we need to reach out to at this time?
Jesus, in Mark’s Gospel, is forever asking people to keep quiet and not tell anyone about what he does. Yet, after such a radical encounter with God which frees this man from all that keeps him trapped, of course he wants to shout from the roof tops. Why would Jesus want his miracles to be kept a secret? Jesus wants to be able to fulfil his mission without attracting the wrong kind of attention. Eventually those who are against him will use encounters like this one to compile evidence against him. For now, the less they know the better. We might think today of those who bravely speak out, even if it means they are punished in some way. May all of us have the courage, like the man who is healed in the Gospel today, to proclaim the truth, even if it costs us.
‘There is a need for paths of peace to heal open wounds. There is also a need for peacemakers, men and women prepared to work boldly and creatively to initiate processes of healing and renewed encounter.’ (Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, 225)
First Sunday of Lent
21 February 2020
On this first Sunday of Lent, we are invited to embrace the wilderness. The past year has given us experience of wilderness as our world battled a pandemic. Many people were afraid, isolated, alone, and uncertain of what the future would bring. Humanity was adrift in what seemed like a desert moment. However, wilderness can bring opportunity. It can be a time for deep reflection, where we take stock of what is most important to us, a chance to let go of things that are really not important and focus on where we are being called to be. During this past year, what opportunity did this wilderness offer you?
Lent is also a time where people give up something, focus on weight loss or getting fit, take on a course, try to better themselves in some way. And these can be good things, but Lent is so much more than that. It is a retreat time, a time to make room for something deeper. It is a spring-cleaning sort of time, an opportunity to ask, ‘what needs clearing out in my life so that I can make more room for God?’ ‘What changes am I being called to embrace?’ Without change we cannot grow, and things fast become stale in our lives. God is always urging us on because God knows just what possibilities there are for each of us. Lent offers us the opportunity to makes space for something new, to let go of that which is keeping us from living life to the full.
The Gospel today is short, Jesus is sent into the wilderness, into the desert, and we too are invited into a desert time. Deserts are interesting places which can allow us to reflect, give ourselves space. It is true that we might encounter our demons there, but we should not be afraid because as the Gospel tells us clearly today, this is a Spirit-led desert. God is with us. Let us try to embrace this wilderness. How we make use of this time determines what will be.
‘You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover will be yourself.’ (Alan Alda)
Second Sunday of Lent
28 February 2020
Can you recall a time when you had an ‘aha moment’? One of those moments when something suddenly makes perfect sense to you. It may have been a long time coming, a combination of various pieces of a jigsaw fitting together or it may be an insight you received from spiritual practice. These are special moments. We are never quite the same afterwards, something changes, even a small thing, but something in us changes. These moments move us outside of ourselves or beyond ourselves in some way. They are moments of transfiguration.
In the Gospel today, Peter is desperate to stay on the mountain in that blissful moment with Jesus, so much so that he offers to build tents. One can understand Peter’s request, after such an experience of course he would want to stay there. What moments of encounter in your own life do you recall? An encounter where you simply did not want it to end? It may be something very deep and meaningful which gave you a glimpse of God or a moment of complete contentment?
As with all blissful moments, the disciples must come down from the mountaintop. Jesus’ way involves walking a very different path, a path that will not be so easy. Jesus’ way is different to what Peter may have had in mind. These moments of Transfiguration strengthen us all for walking the more difficult paths, sustaining us on the way.
‘The Lord is more constant and far more extravagant than it seems to imply. Wherever you turn your eyes the world can shine like transfiguration. You don’t have to bring a thing to it except a little willingness to see. Only, who could have the courage to see it?’ (Marilynne Robinson)