Sunday, 29 May 2011

Living Water

“If you but knew the gift that God is offering you,”  Jesus said to the woman at the well.

To us he can say: “If you but knew the gift that God has already given you.” Through faith and Baptism that gift of living water, the gift of the Holy Spirit has already been given to us lavishly.

All Christ has done  - he has done for us
All  Christ has gained – he shares with us.
All Christ’s Spirit - he has poured out on us.

Thomas Merton wrote:  “We already have everything. Everything has already been given to us in Christ. But we don’t realise it, we don’t experience it.”

It is so important to grasp this truth if we are to get to the heart of our faith. Our on-going life of faith, prayer and service in the Christian community, our on-going relationship with the Lord is
-   less about multiplying religious practices - more about accessing the divine gift already given,
-   less about struggling to achieve some spiritual benefit - more about receiving ever more deeply what is already ours,
-   less about needing to do great things for God – more about abiding in his presence so that our lives are fragrant with his goodness and bear the fruit of love.

During these last weeks of Eastertide, as we prepare to celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, the Christian people seek renewal in the Spirit. We pray once again: "Come, Holy Spirit"

But is not really about receiving more of anything. Rather it is being made more open to experience and live from the Gift already within.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Immersed in Divine Fire!

It is God’s nature to love, to give, to pour out in self-abandon.

If you forgive a Franciscan quoting a Dominican, the Dominican mystic Henry Suso, used an unusual image.  

“God is so joyful he completely pours out his nature. If one were to let a horse run about in a green meadow, it would be the horse’s very nature to pour forth its whole being in running and leaping about the meadow. In the same way, it is a joy to God, a delight for him to pour out his nature and his being completely.” 

The immense river of life and goodness flowing from the communion that is God is the source of our creation; it is the source of the gift of Christ for our redemption and the gift of the Holy Spirit for our divinisation. We are, all of us, the recipients of divine generosity, divine fire.

I say this because I was struck by a few lines of the  Second Letter of Peter, by its tone of sure hope in God’s boundless goodness. We are told: “By His divine power, God has given us all the things we need for life and true devotion.” There is more – “By making these gifts, God has also given us the guarantee of something very great and wonderful to come: through them you will be able to share in the divine nature.”

How greatly blessed we already are!

Do you see the awesome dignity we called to  - a sharing in God’s own nature. The interior mystery of the Trinity becoming the mystery of our personal lives.

Today, we are invited to live from this truth: so beloved we are exalted to the heights,  immersed in divine fire.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

A Bowed Head

Symbolic gestures at the right time carry great power.

Such was a small gesture made by Queen Elizabeth two days ago, a few hours into her visit to Ireland.  After laying a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin, she stepped back and bowed her head. 

For my readers outside Ireland, the Garden of Remembrance honours those who died in Ireland's struggle for freedom from British rule. Now a nation watched as the British monarch showed respect to those who had fought to break free.

Many people told me that they were deeply moved by the sight.  A friar, with strong republican leanings, said tears came to his eyes with that bow.

The right gestures indeed carry power, and can be bearers of transforming grace.

I am reminded of a passage in the Second Eucharistic Prayer of Reconciliation:

'Your Spirit changes our hearts... those who were estranged join hands in friendship, and nations seek the way of peace together. Your Spirit is at work when understanding puts an end to strife, when hatred is quenched by mercy, and vengeance gives way to forgiveness.'

The Spirit was at work in that gesture, in that bowed head.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

The Queen Comes Calling

President McAleese and the Queen

The Queen of England arrives in Dublin today.  The visit, her first ever to her nearest neighbour, is full of historical significance. It is seen as a sign of the improved relations between our two countries, united by a long and tortured history.

However, yesterday I met a man who spoke bitterly of the visit. Having been raised in Derry during the Troubles, the British monarch was the symbol of a system he rejected.

While I could listen and have some understanding of the suffering that was the source of  his anger, I know that bitterness must not determine the path ahead.

A man from Holland who read my recent blog  'Praying for Osama bin Laden?' sent me a quote from Martin Luther King, Jr.:

'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.'

Thank God that this day has arrived, unthinkable  at the height of the hated and killings of the Troubles.

Monday, 16 May 2011

Osama bin Laden 2

A key episode in St Francis' story is his meeting with the Sultan.  At the time the Church had sent armies against the Muslims so as to recapture the Holy Land. Francis, in an extraordinary gesture, crossed no-man''s-land and went to meet 'the enemy'.

This Gospel-inspired action still influences the thinking of Franciscans today. It is reflected in the message of the New York friars after the killing of Osama bin Laden (see last post). There has to be another way than hate and revenge.

The friars write: 'We are called to redouble our efforts to seek peaceful solutions to international and domestic conflicts, ...  As Franciscans, we are particularly aware that reconciliation can repair the broken relationships of humanity — as such, it must be one of our highest goals.

'Finally, in our own lives, we are called to do all that is within our ability to reconcile with others with whom we have conflict or disagreement. Perhaps this is also an invitation for greater interfaith dialogue. We must not allow any opportunity to seek reconciliation to pass by unanswered.

'Easter reminds us that reconciliation is always possible because of the steadfast love of our God who remains forever committed to us. We pray that we may never lose hope and that we may have the faith and openness to seek to journey with all others of good will. We offer these reflections with humility, believing that as we respond to the invitation to imitate the love of God revealed in the dying and rising of Jesus Christ, more wondrous and unimaginable gifts await us all.

May the Lord give you peace.'

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Praying for bin Laden?

Last week Osama Bin Laden was killed. I felt pride a few days later when I read the message from our New York friars. The message had a particular Franciscan flavour as it sought to express  a  Gospel response. They acknowledged the great pain and loss caused by the September 11th attack; indeed one of our own  friars, Mychal Judge, died at the Twin Towers. But they challenged the idea of rejoicing in someone's death, and asked for prayer and reflection at this time.

'Osama bin Laden in many ways became the embodiment of our fears. The announcement of his death, then, may have produced an understandable dimension of cathartic release — a sense, or at least hope, that things may be better. Such a release may initially express itself in joy. But, if we are honest with ourselves as Christians, we quickly feel quite uncomfortable with a joy that comes from the death of another human being — even one we call our enemy. Isn’t this discomfort the sting of conscience reminding us that as Gospel people, as Easter people in this season of hope, we are called by God to something more?'

'We are reminded in the Word of God: “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles; or the LORD will see it and be displeased.” (Proverbs 24:17-18a)'

This message is counter-cultural... it certainly goes against the general way of thinking,  just as much of the Gospel does. I am sure what the friars said perplexed or even angered many people, especially when they asked for prayers, not just for ourselves, but for Bin Laden and his family.

'Reflecting on this decisive moment should move us to prayer. We pray for Osama bin Laden, his family and those who follow his leadership: that they may not harden their hearts at his killing and seek revenge. We pray too for ourselves: that we might not rest in joy at his death or harden our own hearts.'

Living by the Gospel, putting the radical teachings of Jesus into practice, does not make for a comfortable life!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Touching our own Wounds!

I last reflected on how, like Thomas, we too can touch the wounds of Jesus when we reach out to the suffering Body of Christ today.

But what of touching the wounds of Jesus in our own lives?

Sometimes it is easier to show compassion to others than to ourselves. Many people can be harsh in their own self-judgement, their hearts tainted with bitter self-condemnation. For whatever reason, they have little or no gentleness with themselves.

But to have mercy on our own weaknesses,
to look with tender awareness as we struggle with heavy burdens,
to touch our own woundedness with understanding love
- this too is touching the wounds of Christ.

We are asked to mediate the Lord's overwhelming goodness to ourselves as well as to others. 

Touching the wounds of Jesus, in the lives of those who suffer and in our own lives – making contact with these wounds - still brings blessings.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Touching Christ's Wounds

What an extraordinary scene! Thomas reaches out tentatively, fearfully and touches the Lord’s wounds – the wounds of his love for us that the Risen Jesus will bear forever. 

And touching the Lord’s wounds heals Thomas’ own wounds of doubt and unbelief.  He is enabled to say:  “My Lord and my God” – that is the strongest act of faith in who Jesus is found anywhere in the entire Scriptures.

But this dynamic – touching the Lord’s wounds so our wounds are healed – that is a reality that still abides. For us also touching the Lord’s wounds opens us to deeper faith and love.

But how do we reach out and make contact with His wounds?

We touch the wounds of Jesus when we touch the brokenness of his suffering Body. We are all the Body of Christ, united with him, sharing in the one Holy Spirit. You remember what Jesus said, speaking of those who need our love: “You did it to me.” And on the road to Damascus the Risen Lord asked Paul, who was persecuting Christians: “Why are you persecuting me?”  In this profound mystery of our unity,  in our oneness with the Risen Lord our wounds are the wounds of the Body of Christ.

When we touch with love and compassion the suffering members of Christ’s Body, we are touching the Lord’s wounds now. And when we open our hearts to give in loving compassion, in whatever way, we also are opening ourselves to receive – to receive from the Lord grace and light.

I have seen it happen so often – people who are seeking a deeper relationship with Christ are brought to stronger faith and intimacy with the Lord when they take their eyes off themselves and show love to their wounded brothers and sisters.

We can touch his wounds today, and that gesture of faith and love still brings healing and blessings.