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Benedictine Spirituality Christ Eastertide Good Shepherd Gospel Lectio Divina Scripture Uncategorized

Good Shepherd Sunday

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As we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday I’m reflecting this image from today’s gospel:

“The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”

As Father Denis McBride’s reflects the Good Shepherd presents a model of leadership based on “physical involvement and self-sacrificial love.” The leadership of the Good Shepherd is inclusive; he abandons no one. He gently draws anyone who strays or is excluded back into the community.

This model contains a challenge for us, Fr Denis carries on:

“The good shepherd challenges our own way of leaving people for lost: “I have come to seek out and save the lost.” Probably all of us know two or three people who have lost their sense of belonging, who feel they have no community to belong to.”

His words raise the question of who we allow to be lost. The harsh circumstances that have become normalised in the past few years have pushed more and more people to the margins. Our modern way of living leaves many people excluded, marginalised, judged and excluded, both in society and in our churches.

The call of the Good Shepherd compels us to become aware of those people. It compels us to risk reaching out and finding ways of welcoming them back in, however uncomfortable and costly that might feel.

So this Sunday’s gospel comes with a very particular call to us Christians to look for those who are marginalised by and within our church communities. The Good Shepherd challenges us to seek out those people, asking what they need, showing them they are welcome and leading them back into the community.

As we move through Eastertide where are you being invited to reach out to those on the margins?

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Benedictine Spirituality Christ Divine Office Eastertide Lectio Divina Liturgy Saints Uncategorized

Singing a new song.

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Today, I’m reflecting on yesterday’s second reading from the writing of St Augustine:

“We are told to sing to the Lord a new song. A song is a thing of joy and, if we think carefully about it, a thing of love. So those who have learned to love a new life have learned to sing a new song.”

Every Eastertide I’m touched by its tone of joy, hope and new life. In the midst of war and uncertainty across the world, it has an added poignancy. So much suffering and harshness don’t incline us to think about singing any sort of song, much less one that’s full of joy and hope. It’s tempting to brush it aside as too hard, too challenging for these dark times.

St Augustine wasn’t calling us to cover our pain with a sticking plaster, or to put on a brave face. He lived through times that were at least as challenging and as painful as ours. It’s from the midst of that suffering that he finds the courage to call us to sing this new song of joy and hope.

So I’m reflecting on what kind of new song we can sing in the midst of these troubled times. It seems to me that our new song has to have an element of lament. It has to allow us to grieve for all who are suffering in the world. It has to allow us to express the uncertainty of these times and the fear that engenders.

St Augustine points out that the reason for the joy and hope is love. So alongside our lament and uncertainty our new song has to carry something of joy and hope because it is based on love. Even in these hard and challenging times love still has the power to comfort, console and strengthen.

It can help us to bear what we thought would be unbearable and lead us through situations that seemed impossible. Whatever we have to face love, and the new life it offers, will sustain and support us, enabling us to find ways to heal our broken world with love’s new song.

What is the new song the Lord is calling you to sing this Eastertide?

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Benedictine Spirituality Christ Eastertide Gospel Lectio Divina Resurrection Scripture Uncategorized

Recognition

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This Sunday we get another opportunity to revisit the Emmaus gospel as the disciples from Emmaus tell the other of their encounter with the risen Christ. I’m glad to revisit a story that is so full of riches that it always offers us something new to reflect on.

I imagine these disciples wearily trudging along the road despondent and hopeless, feeling that they have lost everything. It is in this low state that Jesus appears to walk alongside them. As they share their hurt and hopelessness, he offers an alternative vision of all they’ve been through. Gradually, as they listen to him, their perspective shifts. Some small spark of recognition is kindled in their hearts, which compels them to invite Jesus to stay with them when they reach home:

“They pressed him to stay with them: ‘it is nearly evening’ they said ‘and the day is almost over.’”

On the surface their invitation expresses concern for a fellow traveller, on a deeper level it’s an expression of a glimmer of recognition that recognises Christ in this stranger they’ve encountered. Full recognition only dawns when they sit down to eat and Jesus blesses and breaks the bread:

“He took the bread and said the blessing, and then he broke it and handed to them. And their eyes were opened and they recognised him…”

Jesus stays with them throughout their journey, unfolding the truth gradually and gently, challenging but never forcing, moving at a pace they can cope with. If we allow him to the risen Christ will accompany us as we walk through life, a gentle, challenging presence that stays with us whatever highs and lows we experience.

Where do you experience the reality of Christ walking alongside you in your life?

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Benedictine Spirituality Christ Eastertide Gospel Lectio Divina Scripture Uncategorized

Stormy waters

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Today’s gospel with it’s unexpected and disturbing storm reflects the disturbing times we’re living in. It makes it easier to identify with the disciples at the end of a long and tiring day. I imagine them longing for rest and the opportunity to process some of the strange events they’ve witnessed over the previous days. As darkness falls and they climb into the boat they must have been hoping for a quiet, peaceful crossing to Capernaum.

It wasn’t to be, as they get further from the shore the wind and the waves get stronger and a storm blows up. They find themselves buffeted on all sides as wave after wave threatens to overwhelm their small boat.

Struggling to control the boat they see Jesus walking towards them across the water. Initially his appearance seems to do little to help their situation. The strange sight of him walking towards them over the stormy lake only increases their already mounting fear. Then Jesus speaks to them, and everything changes:

“It is I, do not be afraid.”

His words offer them consolation and calms their fears and they reach the shore safely. As we face our own stormy times we too need to hear Christ’s voice calming our fears and assuring us that, with his grace we will come through our storms.

Where do you need to hear the risen Christ calming your fears today?

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Benedictine Spirituality Christ Eastertide Gospel Lectio Divina Scripture Uncategorized

Working with Christ

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Reflecting on John’s account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes I’m struck by how Jesus involves the disciples in what he plans to do. I’m sure Philip thought it was crazy to be expected to feed such a large crowd. Andrew was uncomfortably aware that the five loaves and two fish were not going to go very far with such a crowd. Yet, having trusted Jesus and followed his instructions they witnessed the miracle of everyone getting what they needed:

“Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted.”

Jesus didn’t need to involve his disciples in this. As is so often the case in John’s Gospel Jesus knows exactly what he’s going to do. Instead he chooses to invite them to work with him to meet the needs of the people, regardless of their lack of understanding.

He shows them, and us, a model of discipleship based on collaboration and sharing. He wants his kingdom to be a collaborative one where people share their gifts and talents freely with others. He wants no one to be without, and no one to be overburdened by having to meet every need by themselves.

In our own challenging and often brutal times he invites us to work with him and with those around us to continue building his kingdom today. He challenges us to use our limited and often meagre resources so that no one is left without the basic necessities of life.

Where is the risen Christ calling you to work collaboratively with him today?

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Benedictine Spirituality Christ Discernment Eastertide Gospel Lectio Divina Scripture Uncategorized

Overshadowed by love.

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Today celebrating the transferred feast of the Annunciation I’m struck by the mixture of calm, serenity, and chaos that it portrays. It’s generally depicted in art and literature as a beautiful moment of calm encounter between Gabriel and Mary, between heaven and earth, leading to Mary’s act of obedience.

That is certainly one aspect of the gospel, but as I reflected on it today I’m very aware that there is also another side to it. The news the angel brings to Mary must have been both surprising and overwhelming to a young, unmarried woman who was not expecting to become pregnant.

It must have seemed to her that she was facing at best a challenge and at worst a disaster. Yet in the midst of the upheaval she was able to find a way through the chaos to say yes. I’m especially struck by the angel’s response when she asks, “How can this be?” He replies:

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…”

His words take me back to the Spirit hovering over the waters at Creation drawing life out of chaos. That’s a comforting image image in these times when so much of our world seems to teeter on the brink of chaos. As we face a myriad of challenges and uncertainties this image offers hope and encouragement. I find it helpful to remember that however chaotic our situation the Spirit hovers, overshadowing us and promising new life.

Where do you need the Spirit’s overshadowing in your life this Eastertide?

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Benedictine Spirituality Christ Eastertide Gospel Lectio Divina Liturgy Resurrection Scripture Uncategorized

Recognising the risen Christ.

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A post from the archives for Low Sunday…

All week we’ve seen the risen Christ appear to the disciples in slightly different way. Each appearance is tailored in some way to touch the heart of a particular disciple, and this gives them their deeply personal and intimate quality. Today’s appearance to Thomas follows the same pattern.

He comes to his encounter with the risen Christ after what I imagine was a hard week. There’s nothing worse than being the one person in a group who missed a significant event. It must have left Thomas feeling isolated and on the fringes. His directness and honesty prevent him from taking their account on trust. He knows himself well enough to know that he needs to see this for himself, saying to the disciples:

“Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.”

I’m touched by how open and vulnerable Thomas is prepared to be about this need. Jesus’ response when he appears to Thomas is focussed on giving Thomas what he needs. He doesn’t judge or criticise, instead he invites Thomas to reach out and touch him in exactly the way Thomas said he needed:

“Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer, but believe.”

Jesus’ acceptance of Thomas with all his doubts and uncertainties leads him to the light of truth, freeing him to make his profession of faith, acknowledging Jesus as the Christ:

“My Lord and my God!”

What would help you to recognise the presence of the risen Christ in your life today?

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Benedictine Spirituality Christ Eastertide Gospel Liturgy Resurrection Scripture Uncategorized

On the beach

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There’s a lot to ponder on in today’s gospel. Peter’s decision to go fishing, returning to the safe and familiar in times that are disturbing and unsettling. Or the lack of a catch as they fish through the night. Or Jesus’ calling to them from the shore, telling them to try another direction, and the amazing catch that results from that. The dawning recognition of the who the stranger on the shore is. Or Peter’s impulsive dive into the sea in his eagerness to get to Jesus.

The image that most draws me is of Jesus preparing breakfast for them. I imagine him gathering driftwood, lighting the fire, preparing the bread, and then calling out his invitation to the cold, tired disciples:

“Come and have breakfast…”

Cooking them breakfast won’t remove the hardships and anxieties of their lives. Yet this action of Christ, the servant king, tells them they are loved and valued by the simple act of meeting these most basic needs. It grounds me in the messy and material reality of human life, the only place where we can encounter the risen Christ. They are an invitation to a new life of loving service where everyone is welcomed and valued.

 In times full of injustice and misery we often wonder how we can help. Today’s gospel gives us a simple answer. We can imitate the simple and straightforward service of the risen Christ helping those around us in small ways that can lighten burdens, bring hope and open hearts and minds.

What is the Risen Christ inviting you to this Eastertide?

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Pondering the resurrection.

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A post from the archives for Easter Tuesday…

By Easter Tuesday the mixture of adrenalin and energy that carried me through the Easter Vigil is waning, and I start to feel the need to slow things down. It’s rightly an energetic season, full of rejoicing, celebration and proclamation. While that delights me, I’m also aware that I need space in the midst of it all to pause and reflect.

In Christmastide we have the example of Virgin Mary taking space to ponder the events in her heart. She reminds us that we too need time to reflect on our encounters with God. We need a similar model in Eastertide, someone who will remind us to slow down, to allow the momentous event that is resurrection to really sink in.

Listening to today’s gospel, the appearance to Mary Magdalene, I noticed a stillness in the account that I’ve missed on other occasions. After her journey through the dark and the rush to find the disciples Mary is left alone. She stops and is still, waiting in her grief for something she can’t possibly understand. It is in this moment of stillness that she encounters the risen Christ. It brings to mind part of my favourite hymn:

“She awaits a new creation in the shadow of the tomb.
Hope and trust and expectation, from it will a vision come.”


Pondering this I realise that I too need a still, quiet moment to encounter the risen Christ as she did in the garden, remaining alone and quiet in his presence, allowing the new creation to take root in my heart.

Where are you finding space to encounter the risen Christ in the depth of your heart?

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Benedictine Spirituality Christ Divine Office Eastertide Gospel Lectio Divina Liturgy Resurrection Scripture Uncategorized

Held by the Risen Christ.

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The liturgy for the Easter Octave is so full and rich that it can be hard to know where to focus. It can easily feel a bit overwhelming. That first Easter must have felt even more overwhelming for the first disciples. Today, I’m reflecting on Matthew’s account of the women going to the the tomb.

They set out laden down with grief, fear, uncertainty. They’d lost someone they loved to a brutal and shameful death. They’d also lost the hopes and dreams he’d inspired. They’d possibly also lost their livelihoods and reputations by following and supporting him. When they set out they could not have imagined how theirs lives were about to be changed, how they would be moved from grief to joy. Matthew writes:

“Filled with awe and great joy the women came quickly away from the tomb and ran to tell the disciples.”

It’s understandable that the first thing Jesus tells them is not to be afraid. Such a huge upheaval would inevitably stir up fear and uncertainty before joy. Jesus acknowledges this and maybe the instruction to return to Galilee gives them and the disciples some space to adjust to the new reality.

We also come to the resurrection weighed down with our own griefs and uncertainties. These can make it hard to feel the joy we think we should feel in these day. In those times the Risen Christ waits for us, holding us in his loving presence until our hearts are able to glimpse his joy in the midst all we carry.

Where is the Risen Christ holding you in his love today?