Both the first reading and the gospel have a lot to say about riches. In today’s consumerist world riches are seen as the be all and end all. Win the lotto and you are top of the heap with all your problems solved. Not so fast the Bible says. It is wisdom, not riches that can give us true happiness. ‘I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her. All gold in view of her is a little sand.’ As far as the Bible is concerned, there is something much deeper, more valuable and more enduring than wealth, namely, wisdom. The wisdom in question is not a mere academic pursuit or winning a quiz competition. It is the clarity of mind that is born of a deep friendship with God. Continue reading
I had the privilege of attending all three days of the World Meeting of Families in Dublin last August. It was an amazing experience. Pope Francis’ encyclical, ‘The Joy of Love’ was the seminal document that was discussed in great detail. There was an incredible number of events on with special programmes for the youth and even the toddlers. Many wonderful testimonies of family living, some of them in very difficult and war-torn areas of the world, were given. But what stands out for me was the lovely atmosphere of those three days. These families from all over the world exuded a spirit of generosity and welcome. Everyone was friendly. It was the most natural thing in the world to chat to the person who happened to sit beside you and find out they were from the far side of the planet. Continue reading
Twenty-Sixth Sunday – B
The main take from the readings today is that the Spirit blows where it wills. You don’t have to belong to a certain class, an inner circle, or be a pope or a bishop for the Spirit to speak to your heart. No one has a monopoly on the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, when some people get into the inner circle they like to mark limits claiming they have certain powers, rights, and prestige that no one else has. This was the case in the first reading today. The Lord comes down in a cloud to talk to Moses and bestows the spirit upon the others in his camp. But when even those who are not in the camp begin to prophesy, Joshua asks Moses to stop them. Moses refuses because he knows he does not control the Spirit, and he will not jealously guard it. In fact, he is only delighted and wishes that all God’s people would be prophets.
It’s a similar story in the gospel. John, one of the two ambitious brothers who wanted the top positions, complains to Jesus about one who is not of their group casting out demons. It’s like he wants the group of disciples to have the sole rights to Jesus. He is very annoyed when someone else outside their group is casting out demons in Jesus’ name. John is only thinking of the prestige of his own group and therefore not able to rejoice that someone is healed. That’s why he wants to nip the activity of this outsider in the bud, because ‘He’s not one of us’. Continue reading
The Son of Man is to be handed over to men. This is a remarkable statement. Jesus tells his disciples — and us — that he will be handed over. He will become passive and powerless in our hands. He will leave it up to us to decide what to do with him. It’s just as the prophet Isaiah had said, “Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep silent before shearers, he did not open his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Continue reading
In the first half of Mark’s Gospel Jesus is presented as a mystery. He performs marvelous works of healing. He speaks with authority. With great love he welcomes everybody and offers God’s forgiveness to sinners. He also prays a lot. He is even a mystery, perhaps even more so, to the apostles he has chosen to follow him. Who is this man? That’s the question on everyone’s lips. Who is this man that, on the one hand is so ordinary, yet exudes grace and presence; a presence that is otherworldly and has a divine touch to it? And, ‘where did he get all this wisdom?’ Continue reading
Over the last few Sundays, we have been hearing Jesus’ dissertation on the Eucharist. Next Sunday it will conclude with many people walking away and parting company with Jesus. Their reason was that this is a hard saying, intolerable language. The hard saying refers in particular to what Jesus says today. “If you don’t eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you shall not have life in you.” Taken at a physical level this is very true and even embarrassing. The problem was they took the sayings of Jesus too literally. They were unable to go past the physical and material, and so they argued, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?
So how do we approach today’s gospel? The first reading presents us with the right attitude. It is one of welcome and hospitality to all. Wisdom or ‘Lady Wisdom’, as one scholar translates it, leaves no room for doubt as to where her focus is. While she is meticulous about the preparations of food and drink the emphasis is clearly on those invited. “Let everyone who is simple come in here”. When Therese of Lisieux read this in French the translation for ‘simple’ was ‘little one’ and it opened up a whole new spirituality of the little way for her. Whether it means simple or little way the invitation is the same, suggesting that there is room at the table for you and me also. And if we lack understanding, all the better. This is precisely what Jesus is offering today, food, not just for the body, but for the soul. Here Jesus is giving us his all. He has already poured out his life for us. Now he is willing to die for us so that everyone who is simple, or little may come and dine in his presence.
When Jesus was offering himself as flesh and blood he was speaking the language of the heart and soul, not chemistry and physics. He himself gave the best explanation in a very similar discourse at the Last Supper when he said, “I am the vine and you are the branches.” There is a very intimate connection between the vine and the branches. The branches actually grow out of the vine. Thus, Jesus is intimately joined to his followers and now bids them to allow his life to flow through them. Likewise, when Jesus presents himself as bread, flesh, and blood for the eating, the invitation is to receive and take him in such that his very life becomes our own. St. Paul is fully aware of his deep union with Christ and so is able to say, ‘I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me.’
That Jesus presents himself as bread did not go unnoticed to the faithful Jews. They would have made the connection between what Jesus was doing and the great deed that God did at the Passover and the Exodus from Egypt. Just as God gave them manna from heaven to carry them through the desert, so now Jesus was presenting himself as the new manna that would be their pilgrim food for their difficult journeys ahead. Jesus also presented himself as the new Paschal Lamb. He was there in flesh and blood to save them more completely than the paschal lamb had saved their ancestors on the night of the Passover. It is no mistake that we call the Eucharist ‘Holy Communion’. The way to eternal life is union with Jesus and with each other.
“If you do not eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you will not have life in you.” We have only to think of Jesus to know what he means by life. He led a passionate, committed, pulsing life of love that had him reaching out to all and sundry with a heart full of compassion for all. In order to have life within us, we need to feed on Jesus, nourish ourselves on his vital life-force, place deep within us his attitudes and his criteria for living. This is the secret and the power of the Eucharist. But it is given only to those who have deep communion with him. They are the ones who feed on his passion for the Father and his love for God’s children.
In speaking about the Eucharist St. Augustine says we become what we eat. In partaking of the Eucharist we become more and more like Jesus. The invitation then is to grow into Christ and share intimately in his life. Our personal concerns and care for our family, our work, and relationships with others are all part of this. Jesus wants all of us to be transformed into him. Every time we come to Mass we can offer something new to be changed, especially the most stubborn and difficult aspects of our relationships with one another as well. The wider world and its painful situations must also be brought into the Eucharist for transformation for all of us are God’s children. And that includes the tragic happenings that are so frequent in today’s world. Nothing is beyond the mercy and goodness of God.
May we always be grateful for the Eucharist. May the Lord’s banquet always be a testimony, guarantee, and anticipation of our own and our world’s transformation in communion with Christ. Taste and see that the Lord is good!
Sunday, 19th August 2018
“Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock!” This is a favourite theme for the many of us who are disgruntled with our leaders, whether they be political or church leaders. The shepherds condemned by Jeremiah were the leaders who neglected their responsibilities and let abuses thrive. His message today might be to political figures, ministers and government officials at all levels, who have the task of keeping public order, defending the rights of citizens and promoting fairness for all, insofar as possible. The shepherd image suggests that authority is not mainly the power to impose rules. The shepherding role is one of service more than dominion. Its goal is to set a good direction and enable a community to live together in peace, where each individual has dignity and an equal chance of personal fulfillment. Continue reading