July-August 2019: The Deep End
Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
7 July 2019
The Deep End • Synergy
Earlier in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus sent out the Twelve disciples to heal disease and to teach about God’s Kingdom. Here he sends out a much larger group ahead of him, in pairs to every town and place where He himself intended to go. Being sent in pairs reminds us of the value of team work. In order for communities to grow and flourish the gifts of many people are needed. Synergy is needed. This happens when individual talents are harvested and aligned, as in the beauty of a choir singing in perfect harmony, or a sports team at the peak of their performance. Synergy is like a power of the Spirit that rewards collaborative efforts. It is when we can dream and strive for the possibility of things before they happen. Synergy promotes collaboration, not competition or exclusion.
Jesus gathered his followers around him, men and women, who were enthused by his vision. He sends his followers out in pairs so that they can support one another. In all our different roles, we too are sent out ahead of him, as parents, ministers of various kinds, politicians, educators, social workers, nurses … In any team – a parish council, a ministry group, a choir, we need a type of synergy. We are all responsible for our Church, not just a select few. We all have different roles to play, we all have responsibilities. When we promote collaborative team work and strive for synergy, we embrace each other’s stories and work for the common good. Then, exciting things are possible!
Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
14 July 2019
The Deep End • The Good Samaritan
Parables are never what they seem. They have a clever way of enticing us to figure out what is really going on beneath the surface. One of the real questions in this parable is: Who offers correct worship to God? Jesus spoke about a God who was not concerned with the constraints of the Temple, but who was on the streets. Look at what the Samaritan did for the man on the road: he bound his wounds, he poured oil on them, he took him to an inn. These are all action words. The emphasis in this parable is on action and compassion. The Samaritan is considered to be an outcast, yet Jesus makes him the hero of this story, no doubt causing outrage to those who were listening to Him. The priest and Levite were most likely carrying oil and wine on their person; in the case of the priest, these items were needed for making sacrifices in the Temple. Coincidently these items were also a vital part of a first century first aid kit, needed for cleaning the wounds of the injured man.
The lawyer is concerned with the limits to ‘love of neighbour.’ But there are no limits, no boundaries, no outsiders in God’s Kingdom. Holiness is not separation from the marginalised, but proximity to them.
“Since once again Lord, I have neither bread, nor wine, nor altar, I will raise myself beyond these symbols, up to the pure majesty of the real itself; I will make the whole Earth my altar and on it will offer you all the labours and sufferings of the world.” – TEILHARD DE CHARDIN
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
21 July 2019
The Deep End • Martha and Mary
Jesus visits the home of Martha. For such a short Gospel passage, this text has created much discussion among biblical scholars. It seems everyone is this story is breaking the rules: Jesus rebukes his host, Mary does not help her sister, and Martha is not sitting at Jesus’ feet like a good disciple. Luke’s gospel is all about ‘reversal’: what you expect to happen does not happen, often the opposite happens! Confused? Mary is positioned here as a disciple learning from her Teacher. Martha as one who is trying to serve through ‘many tasks.’ Throughout his Gospel, Luke places a special emphasis on the wider circle of Jesus’ disciples, and names the women who follow Him. Luke is perhaps reminding us in this text that being a follower of Jesus requires an upset of the norms and a reversal of roles.
This story occurs in Luke immediately after the Good Samaritan, where the importance of service and action are clearly emphasised. It seems unfair that Martha is being told off for serving those who come to her. If Jesus arrived with a hungry entourage, what host would not be stressed out! Jesus frees Martha from these duties, not because they are not important, but so that she too can be nourished by him. Frantic activity is never good or sustainable for us.
Let today’s Gospel be a reminder that when we are bogged down in the craziness around us, we can sit and listen to Him. Then we may be better prepared for the challenges that we face, whether they be in our homes or our wider communities.
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
28 July 2019
The Deep End • When asked how we should pray, Jesus teaches the Our Father
‘Lord teach us to pray.’ If someone asked this today of a faith leader, we might get a long list of possibilities based on different tastes, cultures and trends. Millions of books have been written on prayer, how to pray, what method, where, when, how to sit, what to wear, what attitude one should have, and so on. Yet here, Jesus gives his disciples a very direct response, actual words in a formula, that they should recite. In Jesus’ time there were many rabbis who would have certain prayers for their followers to say, almost as a way of identifying their group. The Lord’s prayer is the prayer of Jesus’ disciples, so it is our prayer too. It is among the first prayers we learn as children. It is a prayer of identity for Christians. When we are in a moment of crisis, when all other words fail us, it is often the ‘go-to’ prayer.
After teaching the Lord’s prayer, Jesus tells a story about a man whose friend goes to him at midnight looking for bread for another friend. It might appear to be a confusing story, but the emphasis is on the power of praying for another’s need. In the early church and today, this is seen as the work of the people of God, the baptised: to pray for the world and the needs of others. Then we go beyond ourselves and our own interests, reaching out and opening up, rather than being closed in on ourselves.
Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
4 August 2019
The Deep End • Living the Dream
Some of us may hear today’s Gospel reading and think: ‘Well, what is so wrong with that?’ In a lot of ways, the actions of the man in the parable make sense. He has had a good harvest (presumably a result of his own hard work) and is making provisions for the future – building bigger barns to store his crops, ensuring he has enough to live on for the coming years, allowing himself to enjoy the fruits of his labour. He is living the dream! He is a good businessman, he has achieved security in life, so why shouldn’t he ‘eat, drink, have a good time’?
Yet God brands him a ‘fool.’ Why? As it turns out, the man is to die very soon. He certainly can’t take all his treasure with him. He has not thought beyond his own enjoyment. He is living only for this life, without any thought for the bigger picture. As Jesus warns: ‘a man’s life is not made secure by what he owns, even when he has more than he needs.’ Furthermore, there is no indication that the considered sharing his wealth with anyone else. His focus is ‘me, me, me.’ He comes across as selfish and greedy. What does he have to show for his life? Yes, he had a good time, but has he helped anyone else, or left the world a better place?
We do not need to renounce all our worldly possessions or stop planning for the future, but we do need to keep things in their proper perspective.
“If you read history, you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.” – CS Lewis
Curraghboy, Co Roscommon
Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
11 August 2019
The Deep End • Ever-ready
Nowadays, many houses have security systems. We can have our homes monitored, 24 hours a day, to make sure they are safe. The really advanced systems even allow us to tap into the cameras from our mobile phones. We don’t have to stay awake all night in case someone tries to burgle our home – the system takes care of everything. There are so many technologies available whose focus is to help us be prepared for all eventualities; we have apps for everything from predicting the weather to alerting us to traffic delays.
There are no such luxuries in the parables. The men who are waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast cannot afford to sleep. They won’t receive an alert to their phone when their master arrives home. They have no option but to wait up. In the short parable of the householder and the burglar, Jesus again emphasises the importance of ‘standing ready.’
Of course, Jesus is not really talking about watchmen and burglars, or being physically prepared; he is talking, rather, about spiritual alertness. It might seem morbid, but ask yourself this: if you were to die tonight, would you be ready? Your answer might tell you something about the areas of your life that need work. Another way in which we can be ‘ever ready’ is to be open to the Holy Spirit. When our hearts are alert and open, we are more likely to see God’s goodness in those we meet, and be ready to welcome his grace into our lives.
We could not imagine being without our gadgets and apps and all of the things that make our lives easier. Valuable though they are, there is something more valuable – indeed priceless – at stake.
Curraghboy, Co Roscommon
The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary
15 August 2019
The Deep End • The slow work of God
Only God could say what this new
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling
in suspense and incomplete.
This beautiful poem by French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ (1881-1955), entitled ‘Trust in the slow work of God’, speaks to the sometimes-tortuous experience of waiting for God. In it, the poet gives us permission to not have all the answers, to allow our faith time to grow and develop. Above all, he invites us to do that most difficult of things: to live in the present moment; to surrender ourselves to God in that moment.
On this feast of the Assumption, we recall Mary’s role in the life of Jesus and in salvation. In the Gospel reading we meet Mary, newly-pregnant and celebrating with her relative, Elizabeth. Given the circumstances, it would be understandable if she was unsure, nervous and fearful. Her future is uncertain, as indeed is that of her soon-to-be-born son. She cannot yet comprehend the enormity of what is to come. Yet Mary seems content to wait. When Elizabeth proclaims Mary ‘blessed,’ Mary herself bursts into prayer, praising God for his greatness and for ‘looking upon his lowly handmaid.’
In modern terms, this is a lesson in mindfulness. When we find ourselves impatient, struggling to comprehend or to trust God’s ways, let us turn to Mary, who accepted God’s plan with trust and hope, allowing it all to unfold, one step at a time.
Curraghboy, Co Roscommon
Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
18 August 2019
The Deep End • Three against two and two against three
Sadly, many people are no strangers to family feuds. In past generations, things like land and inheritance were major causes of family disagreements, causing parents to fall out with sons or daughters, or siblings to stop speaking for years. We may have heard other stories from our own families – secrets that were not talked about, relatives who were shunned for ‘shaming’ the family. These attitudes are dying away, and that is good. We are less concerned with keeping up appearances, and more focused on ensuring children feel loved and supported.
Yet, there will always be conflicts in family life. Differences of opinion can arise over beliefs or choices, sometimes causing immense hurt on both sides. Often these disagreements are between generations. Parents who have raised their children in the faith can feel hurt when a son or daughter drifts away, or decides not to pass on the faith to their own children. Grandparents often carry this burden too.
Some conflict is unavoidable as we navigate these situations, but we have a choice – do we allow anger and hurt to shape our interactions with loved ones, or do we listen with respect and try to understand and find common ground? Perhaps these inevitable conflicts are what Jesus refers to in today’s Gospel – father divided against son, mother against daughter. It’s a surprising statement given his usual focus on peace. But then, following Jesus is not a smooth path. Peace can be hard-won, particularly in families where there are so many different personalities and opinions. Let us pray for wisdom and patience to navigate the tougher times.
Curraghboy, Co Roscommon
Twenty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time
25 August 2019
The Deep End • Curiouser and curiouser
‘Alice opened the door and found that it led into a small passage, not much larger than a rat-hole: she knelt down and looked along the passage into the loveliest garden you ever saw. How she longed to get out of that dark hall, and wander about among those beds of bright flowers and those cool fountains, but she could not even get her head though the doorway.’ (Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
In the opening chapter of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Alice is having a bit of bother with doors. She finds herself in a hall in which the doors are all locked. When she finds a key, it doesn’t fit the locks. When she manages to find a door to match the key, she herself won’t fit through; the doorway is too narrow. How frustrating!
The parable in today’s Gospel also features a narrow door and a locked door, as well as an unsympathetic doorkeeper – it’s almost as if the master wants to keep everyone out! People knock on the door and expect to be admitted, but it’s not that simple. The master turns them away, claiming not to know them, despite protestations that they are acquainted.
Jesus is trying to teach his followers about discipleship. What does he mean when he says we must ‘enter by the narrow door’? Is it almost impossible to enter the kingdom of God? One thing is sure: a passing acquaintance with Jesus will not be enough. The plea of ‘We once ate and drank in your company’ is feeble. It is not enough to know Jesus only on the surface – to attend Mass every Sunday or to turn to him only when we are in need. To really know Jesus, one must walk the narrow path of the Gospel.
Curraghboy, Co Roscommon