Fr John’s Reflection – Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time – 23rd February

What is Lent about anyway?

As Catholics and increasingly among many Christians there is an intentional desire to come closer to Christ and to understand His mission among us. This is not just about accumulating a certain amount of information about his life, death and resurrection but rather an immersion in the vision of God’s Kingdom being lived among us. There can be a sense that this life is an apprenticeship for a “real” future life with God. The fact that Jesus walks amongst us and with us should quickly help us to see that God is with us in an eternal now. We are not just seeking a get out of jail free card to enter heaven and avoid hell. Jesus wanted for us to encounter the same living and loving relationship with the Father which sin can often obscure. There can be a sense that if only we tried hard enough, we would be able to see and hear clearly. Yet often the obstacles that we face dwell deep within us and cause us to dissipate that natural energy entrusted to us by God in follies of our own creation which distract, fatigue and diminish us. This is not God’s plan for us. There is a desire in God’s hearts for us to encounter a relationship which is so deep and so sustaining that even our worst sin cannot remove the fundamental truth that God has loved us into existence for a good purpose.

Yet Lent allows us to notice more clearly those things that burden us on the journey which God wishes us to be free from. This is not just a stoic exercise where we choose what to give up but rather a relationship which helps us to examen each day those areas in our life which help us to come closer and those things which feel like death to us. Ultimately, it calls us to fast from the things which have an addictive and counterfeit hold on us. Those things which scream at us and say you cannot live without this and still be normal. Yet Lent allows us to become more simple, to notice what actually brings life and what frees us to enter into a life-giving relationship with God, with others and with ourselves. Thus, when we fast it is not so much what we do but rather our intention to become a person who falls more deeply in love with God, with others and with ourselves. The penitential acts we undertake are not to centre attention solely on ourselves but rather on God. This will decide what we need to be free from (fasting) and what allows us a greater level of generosity (almsgiving). These are not acts undertaken solely on our initiative but out of a daily relationship with God and with our community in prayer. We cannot do this on our own. We need to journey with each other to discover the degree which God loves. Ultimately, he loves us unto death so that we may discover a new life. This is the whole journey not just a matter of routine or a “Catholic” thing. What we are seeking is to trust that our lives matter to God and that we are prepared to surrender every aspect of our lives to God so that we can live more fully.

Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s Reflection – Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Sixth Sunday of Ordinary Time – 16th February

Wisdom: Learning to say yes and no!

I remember in reading one of Brene Brown’s book “Braving the Wilderness p33-36” she emphasises the importance of belonging more than just fitting in. The emphasis that she placed on belonging was the confidence in ourselves and what we believed in. When we just tried to fit in we surrendered our motivations to the person who we wish to please or at least not annoy! Our lives can become one of becoming tentative where we look for threats to our autonomy and those things that may harm us. Of course, there is a place for caution and considering our own safety but when it becomes exaggerated then we become imprisoned in a world where we become too scared to be ourselves for the good of others.

In the readings this weekend we are called to be wise in considering what brings life rather than death in our actions. This daily consideration looks to see how the Lord leads us into life and gives the ability to work for the good of others and not just for ourselves. This is a process of discernment where we learn what sustains life and what enables us to become wholesome and holy. This looks inside for our own motivations or interior disposition, not to judge the inner self but to discover what leads us to become our best self. Often our primary motivation, if we look at first glance, is the attitude of what is in it for me. There is a tendency to value things to the degree which they have benefits for myself. Yet to become wise we need to enter into a prayer which seeks values which are universal and serve the common good. The world is not centred solely on what I consider good but rather on how we are called to live in a way which brings about the greatest good. Each day we are called to consider what we say yes and no to. This will shape our lives either on the false self which seeks to preserve what little we have or the true self which seeks to the greatest good for me, for others and for the greater glory of God. This is how at the end of each day we can examen what we said yes and no to and how it is leading us into life!

Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s Reflection – Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Fifth Sunday of Ordinary Time – 9th February

Actions speak louder than words

We live in a world which is fed by a 24/7 news cycle which informs us very rapidly what is happening in our world. This can be both a blessing and a curse as it can move us into an attitude where we are consumers rather than participants in the world that affect our whole world. There can be a sense of passivity or worse still apathy or indifference which can descend upon us if we are exposed to too much pain. We know, however, that the reverse can be true when people responded generously around the world to the recent bushfire crisis. The donations have caused many organisations to be overwhelmed not only to act quickly but also justly in reaching out to those in most need. Yet how quickly the wheel turns and now our focus is on coronavirus and what may threaten our own health. There is a sense in which we can feel like a pinball machine where the machine lights up when the ball hits various buffers. Our attention is dissipated by events which are beyond our ability both to understand and control. This sense of powerlessness can seep deep within us and if left unacknowledged can spread like cancer through the soul. 

There is a need that often we can like our lives vicariously through the life of others. Their immediate need seems more urgent and pushes aside the important areas that we may need to attend to. When our world becomes driven by ongoing crises, we don’t find ourselves able to focus on what part we can play. We begin to transmit the pain of these crises on to others not only in our attitudes but also in how we carry ourselves through the day. Yet what is necessary is that we need to find a resonance between our felt sense and how that translates into action. This is not about saying many words but finding the Word that we are able to live by.

Our principle and foundation of what moves us into action help us to reflect each day on what is most important. It causes us to notice what brings life and hopes to others. Rather than becoming overwhelmed in trying to process how others react, we are called to notice how we can transform situations by listening to others and responding with care and compassion. During this week look at how your actions show you what is important in your life and how that speaks louder than any of the words we may say.

Fr. John Armstrong