29th Sunday of Ordinary Time – 20th October
In this weekend’s readings, we can see the image of Moses combating the Amalek’s. When he raised his hands up they were victorious but when he became tired they started to lose heart. So, Aaron and Hur sat him down and kept his hands raised. In a similar way, the poor widow keeps coming before the unjust judge demanding justice where he seems to be worried almost to death! Lastly in his 2nd letter to Timothy, Paul insists that we reflect on Holy Scripture for refuting error, guiding people’s lives and teaching them to be holy, both welcome or unwelcome.
Often this is the dilemma that we confront in our modern world where we are called to accommodate our teaching to suit the audience that we are addressing. Preaching one Gospel to one group of people and another Gospel to the other. What we are called to preach is the same person who is Jesus Christ who leads us into a deeper relationship with God through him. This is where we are called to be people who respond in faith to His voice. This means that what we read in scripture may well challenge us to understand how God draws us into a life-giving relationship which sustains all our relationships. This Good News is not of our making but rather a living Word which draws us into a way of life which builds up the reign of God. Each day we need to turn to scripture which is not a dead letter but a wellspring of hope from which we can draw strength and encouragement to be sustained on our journey.
As I read during the week in 1 John 2.3-6, “Anyone who says, I know him and does not keep his commandments is a liar, refusing to admit the truth. But when anyone who does obey what he has said, God’s love comes to perfection in him. We can be sure that we are in God only when the one who claims to be living in him is living the same kind of life that Christ lived.” What strikes me about this passage is that I have often thought this passage was about intellectual or emotional assent to the truth of Christ, rather it is a surrender to the truth of God’s strength which we allow to enter in. When we hold up barriers against the truth of God’s love we try to do everything under our own strength. Yet when we turn in our weakness to God and make this honest prayer, “God give me strength” we open the door to the grace which floods in and allows us to see our life with God’s eyes which is more loving and transformative than our own. We are not called to be self-reliant but rather people created in God’s image and likeness.
Fr. John Armstrong
28th Sunday of Ordinary Time – 13th October
Even in an age of greater levels of medical care, there can still be a feeling that sickness isolates us from the rest of the community. We start to recognise that our priorities shift and that we start to wonder how this will change the way we live and interact with others. Much has been done to recognise that the way we live with an illness is not just about the treatment provided but the way that the treatment allows the person to be treated with dignity and engaged in the healing process. We are not just worked on as though we are a car going in for a service but rather as a person who has inherent worth which allows them to discover who they are called to become even in the midst of suffering.
This is part of our prayer which deeply engages with who we are and who we wish to become. There is a desire for wholeness and integration which helps a person to recognise who they are in spite of the suffering they may experience. There is a call to holiness which does not just endure suffering but which seeks to assist the person not to become their illness or condition. Just as we see people being labelled as lepers causing them to be excluded from the heart of a community we need to see the person not just their illness. Once we actually see them they discover that even in the midst of great suffering they can still be loved and accompanied as a person with inherent dignity and worth.
This is a call where the gifts of both healing and mercy come to the fore because they seek to help the person discover God’s compassionate face through human hands. They help people to discover that even in the most difficult circumstances that they can experience the healing touch present in a person’s expertise but also in their attitudes. Far from being isolated from the community, they are surrounded by people who look out for their welfare and wellbeing. In being accompanied they discover their true identity in God who seeks them out with grace and mercy. Our whole system of welfare is based on this fundamental dignity of the human person which sees people created in God’s image and likeness. This changes how we see ourselves and see others in great suffering as people who we hold in prayer.
Fr. John Armstrong
27th Sunday of Ordinary Time – 6th October
Our faith starts from where we are and the place where we encounter Christ. This call to follow him is not just a private endeavour or a personal preference but rather a living response to how Christ calls us to follow. Often, we can feel that when we are perfectly formed, well educated and have our lives together that we will meet God. Yet the contrary is true. God meets us in the midst of our daily lives when we are working hard when we are finding it difficult to find spare time to be by ourselves and when the demands of daily living seem to mount up like a wall of water around us. The focus on the immediate and our availability is tested by many things.
However, the still quiet voice of God rings out in the midst of this seeming never-ending activity. It calls us to bear witness to the Good News not at a time when it is convenient but in the middle of what seems to hold our attention. This is not one of compulsion but rather a loving voice which creates a response in a way which is present to people with grace and power. This is the ability to respond with a loving heart. Nothing is foreign to God yet in all situations he calls us to hear his voice and not harden our hearts.
This level of faithfulness is not just generated by a stoic resistance to the events of life but rather slow, patient anticipation of the unfolding of God’s vision. Even when world events proclaim doom and disaster we are called to respond with mercy and grace. In an age where we can be provoked to make a response based on the latest headline or the most recent news report. This steady and careful gazing at what is real allows us to be contemplatives who take action for the good of others, for the good of ourselves and the good of God. In all things, we seek to be people who seek silence, stillness and solitude which touches that which brings life and Good News to our world.
Fr. John Armstrong