Fr John’s Reflection – 13th Sunday in Ordinary Time

13th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 28th June

Nurturing the holy

Many of us have an intuitive sense of what makes for a holy person but we find it hard to give expression to this in words. They speak with words which are heard by the ear of the heart and seek to articulate our deepest longing for God. This is not something that we can manufacture or produce but rather it is an invitation to participate in God’s creative plan for us. Often the holy person is discovered in the ordinary events of our lives. It is that innate sense that in believing that God communicates with us through everyday graces that we discover that God does not leave us orphans.

In the Gospel, it is that attention and hospitality which sees the holy in each person we encounter. By providing a simple glass of water to a stranger we may entertain a saint without knowing it. The discovery is that the knowledge is not something that we just pick up from books but rather an expression of who we know ourselves to be. In seeking the holy in each day, we transform not only those we meet but also those who encounter us. It calls for us to be present to the ordinary tasks of our day with an abiding spirit which builds up the other.

We also know that it is in these simple acts of surrender that we encounter the source of our life. It may feel at times like little deaths where we deny ourselves to consider another. Yet in this way we acknowledge that our lives are not centred upon just our own desires but on God’s providence to be present in our actions. The central question is who do we nurture when we sit down at the table? We do not feed simply on food but on the presence of the one who joins us. God comes to us disguised as our lives.

Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s Reflection – 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time

12th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 21st June

 Telling our truth to the world

In reading through the newspapers over the last few months there has been much which has sought to elicit the opinions of people. Not least these have focussed on the pandemic and social unrest in the United States. There has been a tendency to shine the light on what others consider urgent without discovering its importance. We are told what to think or at least align ourselves whichever side seems to be most sympathetic to our world view. This can often produce more heat than light as the friction created by debates doesn’t seek to resolve the issues but actually inflame them. In a time of isolation, we also find ourselves polarised by these opinions rather than being enlightened to consider how we live in times of uncertainty.

Yet we are not called to retreat into caves and become hermits. We are affected by events in the world and the way we live matters. There is a call to acknowledge how the events that surround us do have an impact on our lives. However, it also calls us to reflect on what environment we create in response to these events. What is it that we consider essential and what is periphery? We don’t want to become lost in viewpoints that we do not hold or prejudices which seek to divide us. This calls us to be people who do consider what history has to tell us and how our thinking is not just based on a knee jerk response. We are called to be people who are open to what brings life to ourselves and to others. In the midst of this reflection, we can decide what is the next obvious step for our good and the good of others.

The truth we are called to proclaim is not just something we can take down from the shelf and parrot to one another. It calls for an active engagement which is based on our own prayer, study and action. The way we build the world is founded on small acts done with great love.  It calls us to be people who are present to the Living Word in our daily life. Neither do we isolate ourselves from the terrors that seem to oppress but we do not seek to be overwhelmed by them. We are called to be people who seek that calmness and peace in the midst of the storm which besets us. This is not just undertaken through will power but a surrender of our lives to God which enables us to engage with the world as we are not as we think we should be. It allows us to tell our truth to the world.

Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s Reflection – Feast of Corpus Christi

Feast of Corpus Christi– 14th June

Eat to your heart’s content

One of the ways which we are called to trust another is to sit down and have a meal with them. This is not only sharing their company but a reassurance that we will not be ill-fed or be poisoned by what we eat. In an age of Master Chef and many adverts tempting us to not be satisfied with what is placed before us, we can be tempted to look for greener pastures or for something which will nourish and sustain us beyond our usual fare. We can become expectant that somewhere out there that a meal awaits us which satisfy us. Our palates can become bored with which what seems every day and mundane when there is evidence that more delicious meals may be served elsewhere. 

Yet in the course of everyday life, we find that our imagination and reality may differ. What we want and what we need is held in a balance of what will nurture both body and soul. There is a need to notice not only what we eat but also the person who prepares it. We are not called just to become consumers of food but people who develop relationships around a common table. Much as when we travel to and from our work, we are called to become pilgrims, not tourists. This allows us to become aware that who we meet along the way is as important as the destination that we travel to.

As we gather to celebrate the Feast of Corpus Christi, we can notice that the person we meet is not just the person we consume. The emphasis is not solely on the host and the chalice we receive but the person we enter into a deeper relationship with. This intimate moment of sharing wholly the life of another is not just a physical act but a spiritual encounter. We are called to become one with Him who shares himself in the simplest gifts of bread and wine which become His Body and Blood. The heart of Eucharist is that we become one with Him as he becomes one with us. This sense of communion helps us to live in a different reality. It allows us to discover how God is encountered in every day and in the simplest events. By seeking God in the midst of all things we discover that our ordinary lives can become extraordinary and a blessing for our world. We are transformed by the very person whom we receive. 

Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s Reflection – Trinity Sunday

Trinity Sunday – 7th June

Not to condemn the world but save it

Over the last week, there has been much which has focussed our attention on the civil strife in America. It has also drawn much commentary which seeks to understand what is happening and the potential fallout for the rest of the world. During the week I have been reflecting on Jacques Philippe’s book on the Beatitudes, The Eight Doors. In it, he talks about when choosing a response between force and love we should always choose love. This is not because we are doormats but because we seek to recognise the dignity of each person and it is only by loving what we consider unlovable that we can restore and reconcile the other. As we know hate breeds hate and violence breeds violence. As Odette Churchill noted after her incarceration at Ravensbrook it is easy to see how the parasite of evil can transfer between hosts to infect the whole world. While we are called to stand against violence and hatred, we should not become violence and hatred.

How then can we live Christian lives in times of uncertainty and fear? It is easy to see how we can be caught up in a polemic which only increases tensions and divides people one against another. It can be seen too easily in racism, nationalism or sexism. The ability to take sides seems to be somehow too easy. Rather than seek to build bridges it is easier to build walls. This shuts people out not just in manmade structures but also in the barbed wire we wind around our hearts which stop others from coming too close.

It is in this situation that we need to hear the words that Jesus came not to condemn the world but so that through himself that the world may be saved. In many ways we should, therefore, look at what unites us to live in peace with each other. This is a love which is blind to prejudice but aware of injustice which divides people against each other. At a time when it is very easy to withdraw into our castles to observe these divisions and protect ourselves from harm, we are called to see how the living spring water wells up inside us to draw people into a living relationship with God. We restore humanity by recognising what is most human in another, we acknowledge our divine calling when we see in the kingdom as dwelling within and between us. We pray for peace by becoming peacemakers.

Fr. John Armstrong