Fr John’s Reflection – 2nd Sunday of Lent

2nd Sunday of Lent – 28th February

Transformed by Light Plunged into Darkness


Lent brings with it two amazing contrasts in the spiritual life revealed to us in the Transfiguration. The first is that we meet the full reality of Jesus contained in the law and prophets. We see clearly the black fire of the written word on white fire of our hearts. We are called to see God present in all things. The glory of God is made transparently clear which overwhelms us with awe. We are astonished by God’s immense love for us in revealing Jesus’ divine presence and its impact on our lives.

Yet almost as we seem to comprehend this we seem to be plunged into darkness where God seems to be no-where and no-thing. It is almost as though all the certainties about God are stolen from us and we enter into a cloud of unknowing. We start to have doubts about ourselves and our fears confound our isolation. Yet it is in this darkness that we are able to listen attentively to the voice of God which says, “This is my beloved Son, listen to him.”

Thus, Lent is a deeper awareness of how we can encounter God in every aspect of our lives while also realising that God is no-thing. These dual experiences are essential if we are to surrender our whole life to God. Recognising that it is through these experiences we encounter God as our true self.

Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s Reflection – 1st Sunday of Lent

1st Sunday of Lent – 21st February

What do we thirst for?


Lent is a time when we are driven out into the desert to face our own demons. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of daily life, we often are drawn to events outside of us which seem to crowd out our inner lives. There are bills to pay, people to meet, appointments to be kept and items to be purchased. Our lives can become simply a to-do list which we mark off with an inevitability there will be more things to be done. There can seem to be a relentless pressure to perform and meet the expectations of others. That there never seem enough hours in a day to attend to what we consider important.

Yet Lent is really a time when we could consider a to-be list. How have we been present to our daily activities with a spirit of thanksgiving and gratitude? What has helped us to notice the graced moments where God draws our attention to beauty, creativity and wonder? They may only be simple things like a person who unexpectedly smiles and wishes us a good day. The person who recognises that we may need encouragement with a particularly difficult task or even a person who agrees to accompany us to a doctor appointment. These are all things that we can take for granted but they transform lives.

In a similar way, we can see what most easily allows us to review what is bringing us life and leading us to a more wholesome way of living. This can be as simple as seeking to notice what we truly hunger for and what satisfies us. It can also notice what seems to be a dead weight on us and which we endure rather than carry. There are situations in life where we will all encounter difficulties but how do we find ways in which we can bring a sense of joy and peace to what to many would seem a crushing weight. 

There can also be those times when we are distracted from the very good that we seek to do by things that have the appearance of being urgent rather than important. When we notice that we are spending time on things which do not help us or others we can start to make changes which open us to the more creative use of our day. We can also become aware of the direction in which our life is taking and make small course changes which direct us to a more prayerful way of living.

In the end, Lent is about preparing ourselves for the renewal which comes about through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Recognising those things which are obstacles to the way of life we seek to live, to discover the truth which will sustain us on the journey to becoming fully alive.

Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s Reflection – 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 14th February

Preparing for Lent

  Thinking back over the last year it seems as though we have had our longest Lent. When we first started to hear about COVID we thought that it would last for a relatively short time. But in many ways, it has been like a longer penitential season. We have been called upon to pay particular attention to personal hygiene, physical distancing and unnecessary travel. In many cases, the restrictions became mandatory and at short notice. People were called to adjust their plans at short notice and many of the things we took for granted were thrown awry. There was a sense in which the enforcement of this distancing brought with it much confusion, isolation and anger. It called us to reflect on what was important in our lives. I believe this is what Lent is truly about, it calls us to notice what we need to fast from which at times may be more than food. It is what can isolate us from God and from each other. Thus, our fasting helps us to notice the places where we put up barriers to God and to others in our lives. This is where our prayer is not just time which we set aside but rather listening to how God prompts us to discover who we are called to be in our daily lives. It is listening to the quiet voice which sustains us. As I have said to our seminarians we think at light speed, God speaks to us at walking pace. When we notice that we have time to slow down we can start to see that we are not the centre of the universe. We are called to notice those around us especially those in greatest need of God’s loving presence. This is not just about observing what needs to be done but actually participating in a way which puts that loving gaze into action. So, as you prepare for Lent this is a time where prayer, fasting and almsgiving call us not to be centred on ourselves but on God’s loving intent and what brings down the hard borders we discover around our hearts.

Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s Reflection – 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 7th February

The next obvious step

 Mary Mackillop was always looking for opportunities in which she could apply the teaching of the Gospel to the life of the community in which she lived. She saw an urgency which did not put the work of today in the hope of what might happen in the future. She was not one for rainy days in which action could be postponed when it was clear that she could make a difference at this moment.

As we read through the first reading from Job for this weekend, we can have an impression that it is just one thing after another. Yet I feel this misses the point he is making which is to be present to the situation we are in rather than seeing life as an endless progression of time in which we always anticipate something in the future but never experience it now. Paul takes this theme up when he talks about preaching the gospel not as a task to be fulfilled but a life to be lived. He saw himself as sharing his life with the people he met so that he could identify the graced action which was needed. In the same way, Jesus sees the immediate need and responds to it. When he discovers Simon Peter’s mother-in-law sick, he attends to her need for healing. She responds by showing her thanks by attending to his needs. It is this ability to see the need in the life of another which draws us to be people of healing and reconciliation.

The main thing in exercising these good works is not to draw attention to ourselves but to enable us to hear the Good News at work in our lives and the lives of ordinary people. It is by doing ordinary things extraordinarily well that we discover how God opens up our minds and hearts to the people in our square metre. To encounter them prayerfully and holistically. To see the person who is in need and to take the next obvious step.

Fr. John Armstrong

Fr John’s Reflection – 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 31st January

Listening to silence

In a world which seeks to make us busy, many opinions can be thrown us on a daily basis. I am often taken from the time we wake up to the time we go to sleep we listen to many different voices. These voices can often seem to be contradictory and pull us in different directions at the same time. In fact, it is this dis-ease which can not only affect our mental health but our physical health as well. If we try to please all the different voices, we find ourselves torn apart.

This is the importance of finding a place where we can listen to the silence within. This is not easy because we have often been taught that unless we are actively doing something, we are not worthwhile. Thus, we plunge ourselves into activity so that we can prove that we have purpose and meaning. It seeks to crowd out the empty spaces within us by having no spare time to be with ourselves. We don’t want to be seen to be wasting time doing nothing.

Yet it is this encounter with no-thing that is at the very heart of our prayer. It calls us to encounter our true self which is more than the things we do or the successes we achieve. The place where we have been loved into being. This silent place may seem to be a “waste of time”, but it may be the most productive place that we can encounter in each day. By allowing our prayer to draw us into a silence of being present to this moment we seek to integrate our day and become whole. Rather than being fragmented, we listen to the inner voice which brings healing and strength.

The need to be restored in prayer is essential as it brings to notice what heals us and brings wholeness. It allows us to be truly ourselves before God and each other. This restoration allows a balance which sees that in being present to no-thing we become aware of how God is present in all things. 

Fr. John Armstrong