Fr John’s Reflection – 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 25th October

The Golden Rule

 If there is one thing which unites all of humanity it is what is considered the Golden Rule: To do good to the other that you would do for yourself. It is at the heart of our welfare system and seeks to ensure that each person is respected as a person made in the image and likeness of God. Yet the reality of how we actually live that rule can cause tensions to arise not only in its application but also in how we see the other person as equally deserving of God’s grace. Much of this is contained in the declaration of human rights which seeks to preserve what is vital to human life. We seek to share the world’s goods and preserve the environment not just as a gift for ourselves only but for generations yet to come. This is where the difficulty of living this rule arises because it calls us to notice that its application depends on where we are standing.

I believe this is where the rule to love God with all our heart, all our soul and all our mind allows noticing what is important for us in life. The order of discovering what is placed on our heart orientates us towards what we consider vital for our lives and what we think about and apply our minds to. It is from this point of view that we start to notice what it is that we love and how we love ourselves into being. At the heart of the matter is the need to ensure that our hearts and our actions are in accord with each other. When this happens we naturally seek the good of ourselves as influencing the good of others. We no longer live for ourselves alone. We see the value not only in what we do but in the contribution it can make to the common good.

So at the heart of prayer, reflection and action we need to consider what is the next obvious step that we can make for the good of ourselves and the good of others. In living this out we make small but profound changes to the way we live in the world. No longer do our lives centre solely on what we need but on what God desires for the good of all. Our lives make a difference in helping others to live well.

Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s Reflection – 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time

29th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 18th October

The Piper plays the tune

 Each of us from time to time would be concerned about our financial wellbeing. We are called to be people who do not live beyond our means but also become accountable for how we spend our money. This is one of the difficulties in many settings at the domestic level, in our local parish community, in the policy of the government and in the way we act as good stewards of the things entrusted to our care. In some cases it can seem that money dictates what we can and cannot do in life. Yet in reality, it is only a tool which can help us to recognise our priorities and what we truly need. 

In modern life, we are often “sold” an image of ourselves or of the perfect life. We can rely very heavily not just on what is in favour but also what seems to add value to the person we are. This can at times seem elusive and ethereal. Just as we buy something because of its looks or its utility we find that it never works like we see on tv. We seem to fall for the dream of the perfect body, the perfect home, the perfect family and ultimately the perfect life. The danger that we encounter is that these dreams seem fleeting and can be disrupted or interrupted by events beyond our control. These times reshape our thinking and call us to consider what is truly important.

At the heart of the Gospel is not that we abandon our daily activities or our responsibilities to our communities but that we see them in the right perspective. We are created in the image and likeness of God to cooperate with that creative vision of building the kingdom. This is not just an external structure or a home run into heaven but rather a disposition of the heart which informs, forms and transforms our way of being present to our world. It sees the centre of our life shaped in God’s creative vision for humanity which promises faith, hope and charity as the KPI’s of our lives. These are difficult to measure but essential for lives. They shape who we wish to become and where we spend our time and money. In this, we daily seek to encounter God in our prayer so that we can encounter each person as a graced moment. There is a capability to see that God is present in each encounter enabling us to grow in faith, hope and love.

Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s Reflection – 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 11th October

Not just any invitation

 There is usually great excitement when we receive an invitation to a wedding especially if it is someone we know well. The anticipation building up to the day is not only about buying the right gift or wearing the right clothes but rather the sense that we will witness the commitment of a couple who love each other. There is a recognition that the commitment they make is not only for their good but for the good of the whole community and future generations. They promise fidelity to each other and a responsibility to care for others. The sense of the commitment between a man and a woman is the mutuality between all of humanity which becomes evident not just for the good of the couple but so that God’s love may be manifest in the world.

The wedding scene in the Gospel for this weekend takes an interesting twist on this familiar story. In fact, it is those who are invited who not only refuse to attend but actually take it out on the messenger. In this, the King is being portrayed as so angry that he not only dispatches those who treated his messengers so badly but insists on bringing in anybody to celebrate the feast that has been prepared. There is the insistence that what is offered is not only for the chosen few who believe they have no need to attend. Yet we can still wonder about the person without a wedding garment. I think that while good and bad people are press-ganged into the celebration there needs to be a response on the part of the person to a change of life. There is a need to be receptive to what is on offer.

In these COVID times when we become used to limited numbers able to attend Mass on Sunday and the need to be a social distance from each other, this Gospel stands as a stark reminder of a God who seeks us out before we seek God. There is a recognition of that while we may see a distance between us and God. Where the everyday events can seem to take priority over our lives God seeks to bring a deeper meaning to who we are called to be. The central message is that our life is not just something to be done but a reality to be celebrated. At the heart of this message is a belief that God will always seek us out whether we are ready or not. The question is that when we are invited to enter into that life-giving relationship how will we respond?

Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s Reflection – 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 4th October

Becoming pastors not managers

 Pope Francis in speaking to priests reminded them that they were called to be pastors not managers of the parishes in which they lived. The difference that he was pointing to was that in one case we focus on managing people and resources entrusted to us in the other we look at how God is present in the place where we live in caring for people and what most allows them to build the kingdom. The emphasis seems to be at the heart of these weekends readings on whether we own the product of our labour or whether we see it is as a gift given to us to be used wisely. I feel that this is the tension that we are called to exercise in our daily life: how do we notice the practical needs of those around us but also our attitude to responding to those needs.

I believe there is something within all of us which wants to be recognised and rewarded for a job well done. This is the natural place of thanksgiving and gratitude which lies at the heart of human living. Good things are entrusted to us for the common good. Yet there is also that subtle voice which says this is mine and not another’s work. We can become careful about what we share that someone may steal our good name or our good work as their own. We build fences to keep our ideas and our efforts secure. This does not diminish the reality that a person deserves a just reward for a just day’s work. Yet it is the suspicion which can cause us to possess the gift entrusted to us and see it as our own.

We are called to be people who find meaning in our work. Yet our work is not the sole judge of our character, important as it is for our own welfare and the welfare of others. What is more important is that we are called to be people who are in communion with each other. This communion reflects a deeper reflection that we are called to be in communion with God. It is present in many of our fair work acts, in our care for work, health and safety, in the safety net for those without productive work. Yet at the heart of the matter is how we notice the good of the other. In seeking their good as well as our own we are able to produce good fruit. This allows people to discover that the fruit is both material and spiritual in sustaining life and giving glory to God. Our work is not an end in itself but an expression of God’s bountiful love, that in labouring for others we cooperate with God’s creative plan.

Fr. John Armstrong