Fr John’s Reflection 19th Sunday of the Year

19th Sunday of Ordinary Time – 13th August

For fear of repeating myself, we live in a world besieged by noise and opinion. We live in a climate in which we are swamped by a tsunami of media which seeks to grab our attention and focus our interest. Whether it is the daily diet of news, social media or email everybody seems to want to grab our gaze. There is also a great climate of news which seeks to engender fear and distraction away from ourselves to matters over which we have little control. It calls us to attend to something for fear that we may become bored with ourselves and the routine of our daily lives. We can see this in the way storms seem to break upon us and we are called to focus on the destructive forces of nature. There seems to be a climate which creates a sense of powerlessness which seems to be overwhelmed by these events. We seem to be diminished by our own world which seems to be fighting against us. Then again if this was not all, we are confronted by those who wish to set fire and destroy what is known whether by terrorism, war or personal conflict. This desire to give vent to their own inner conflicts by force upon others, this seeking to face our own destructive instincts is at the heart of our own ability to be wounded and to wound others.

Yet in the midst of this outward and inward ability to be overcome by forces which seem beyond our control we have two images that come to us through the scriptures. The first is Elijah in the cave. He does not hear God’s voice in the destructive nature of the gale, the earthquake or the fire but in the quiet zephyr of a breeze which passes in front of him. In the midst of this gentleness he covers his face and stands present. This is a call for us to listen to a God who alone can quieten the violence which can seem to overwhelm and destroy us.

The second image is that of the boat battling a heavy sea and Peter being invited out of the boat to walk towards Jesus. Once again this is not an ignoring of the storms that can rage around us but rather a trust in a God who calls us to reach out and touch him. There is a total reliance in how God is present even in the most difficult situation and to entrust our lives totally to him.

This is a reminder to us that our faith is built on a relationship with the one who can save us and call us to a life in union with him. It is from this relationship that we do not become passive observers of life but rather participants who do not succumb to a fatalistic way of being present. We are called to notice what frightens us but not be overcome by it. By being open to how God quietens our fears we can start to focus on what creates life, what builds hope and what sustains others in loving charity. Each day we listen to that still quiet voice which allows us to be prayerfully present to ourselves and to others.

Fr. John Armstrong

“The intellectual quest is exquisite, like pearls and coral. But it is not the same as the spiritual quest. The spiritual quest is on another level altogether. Spiritual wine has a subtler taste. The intellect and the senses investigate cause and effect. The spiritual seeker surrenders to wonder.” (Rumi Wisdom; trans. Timothy Freke)

Fr John’s Reflection The Feast of the Transfiguration

Feast of the Transfiguration – 6th August

How we listen to another indicates the way we will live our lives.

The Transfiguration puts the same words before us that we hear at the baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist: “This is my beloved son, listen to him”. This is not just about hearing what he said or reading what has been written. It is allowing his life to touch our own.

We encounter Jesus by allowing his living word to engage us more deeply. To ponder how it becomes one with us and shapes how we think and act. This heartfelt response challenges us to not be afraid that God reaches out to us to enter into a living and life giving relationship.

We are called to listen to his voice in the way we live.

Fr. John Armstrong

“The intellectual quest is exquisite, like pearls and coral. But it is not the same as the spiritual quest. The spiritual quest is on another level altogether. Spiritual wine has a subtler taste. The intellect and the senses investigate cause and effect. The spiritual seeker surrenders to wonder.” (Rumi Wisdom; trans. Timothy Freke)

Fr John’s Reflection 17th Sunday of the Year

17th Sunday of the Year – 30th July

There is often a subtle distinction between choosing what is right and wrong and what is good and evil. The first deals with observable acts which can be seen to be right or wrong according to a moral code or enacted law. The second deals with the unseen motivation of the person which seeks to discover what is good or evil.

A person can do the right thing with evil intent, just as a person can do the wrong thing with good intent. This is what Solomon prays for as he seeks to take leadership of the people of Israel. It is not just about being knowledgeable but also about being wise. How do you apply the particular law for the particular purpose it was intended to govern?

There is probably a whole book that could be written and have been written about the principle of discernment. Essentially though, it is about the head and the heart acting in union for the good of the person and the good of the community. Jesus often taught this as well, it is not sufficient to know only the law but also to know the heart of the law giver.

We need to seek for that pearl of great price which draws us deeper into relationship with God and with the community we are called to be part of. This visible and invisible reality is what binds us together.

Discernment is not just about making good decisions but about making wise choices about who we will become. They bring a different quality and tenure to our lives. They help us to discover that the things we do flow out of who we seek to become and who we become shapes the things we do.

Fr. John Armstrong

“The intellectual quest is exquisite, like pearls and coral. But it is not the same as the spiritual quest. The spiritual quest is on another level altogether. Spiritual wine has a subtler taste. The intellect and the senses investigate cause and effect. The spiritual seeker surrenders to wonder.” (Rumi Wisdom; trans. Timothy Freke)

Fr John’s Reflection 16th Sunday of the Year

16th Sunday of the year – 23rd July

Brothers and sistersThe Spirit comes to the aid of our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groaning.. And the one who searches hearts knows what the intention of the Spirit is, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God’s will”                                                                                                          Romans 8.26-27

This passage of scripture particularly struck me when I was reading through the Gospel about the darnel and the wheat. In many cases we put in a great deal of effort into making sure that we accomplish something in our spiritual life. There is a sense that we need to get it right and line up everything in a row.

In this scenario we put a lot of responsibility on ourselves and seeking God on our own terms. However, there are times when at the end of the day we struggle to make sense of what is happening in the world. Those times when we seemed to solve all the problems of the world over a cup of coffee seemed to have disappeared into the mist of the day. We look at what has happened and what is happening and we seek to make sense of it all. We want God to discover us rather than it all being about ourselves.

This is why in the examen at the end of the day we need to be present to God if only for a few moments. I would propose that it can be done quite simply by seeking to discover to what God wants us to be present:

  •  For what are we thankful?
  • Where do we discover ourselves becoming most alive?
  • What deadened us or drained us of energy?
  • What should we seek to be present to tomorrow?

This is not about labouring over the day but rather seeing what floats to the surface and of what God wishes us to be most aware.. The sense of being present to God in this way incarnates our faith not just based on our own abilities and insights but on how God is drawing us deeper into a relationship of life and love.

Fr. John Armstrong

“The intellectual quest is exquisite, like pearls and coral. But it is not the same as the spiritual quest. The spiritual quest is on another level altogether. Spiritual wine has a subtler taste. The intellect and the senses investigate cause and effect. The spiritual seeker surrenders to wonder.” (Rumi Wisdom; trans. Timothy Freke)

Fr John’s Reflection 15th Sunday of the Year

15th Sunday of the Year – 16th July

How many homilies can you remember years after they are spoken? In a world deluged by words what takes hold of our hearts and engages us with life?

The Gospel of the good seed scattered in the ground reminds us of how liberal and generous God is with the reminder of how the saving word can be planted within us.

Often we know how easy it is for a word to be spoken and then too quickly it is taken from us.

 There can also be those ads which guarantee instant success without effort whether it is weight loss, financial gain or living the complete life. Here again we try it for a while but it is someone else’s word which seems to work for them and not for us.

Then there can be the times which while we treasure the word the pressures of life crowd in on us. There do not seem enough hours in the day to do all that we want. We seem to be swamped with too much information that the word gets choked.

Yet finally there are those words which abide with us and hold us. They are like breathing in fresh mountain air and drinking from clear crystal streams. They renew us, sustain us and rest deep within us. They help us live each day with a renewed spirit and a grateful heart. They play over and over in our minds and in our hearts and help us to see things differently. They come from a place in our prayer which engages our lives more deeply. They bring scripture to life in the people we meet and in the person I seek to come. They help us to discover the opportunities to give glory to God with our whole life.

Fr. John Armstrong

“The intellectual quest is exquisite, like pearls and coral. But it is not the same as the spiritual quest. The spiritual quest is on another level altogether. Spiritual wine has a subtler taste. The intellect and the senses investigate cause and effect. The spiritual seeker surrenders to wonder.” (Rumi Wisdom; trans. Timothy Freke)