It is planned to read out all their names and light a candle for each one. A list has been placed in the Lady Chapel and all are invited to add names/famlies
All religions seem to demand/require/suggest a certain approach to God.
All religions try and figure out what God is like and from their conclusions tell us what God wants from us – how God wants us to treat Him. This approach colours our liturgical practices and official prayer life.
This is why different religions honour God and pray to God in many differing ways.
For example St. Patrick’s Missionary Society decided at the beginning to follow the spirituality of St Ignatius of Loyola (St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, invented/instituted this approach).
This approach to God suited some but not many.
The problem I find with all of the above is its presumption that, irrespective of who I am, it requires me to approach and treat God in a certain way. I can see the value of this approach as a starter, but having started (after a number of years) I should allow the Spirit of God to lead me in my relationship with My God.
God is a Person. Religion is a relationship with this Person. Like all personal relationships it must grow, develop, change, mature.
Adhering closely to a certain form or practise of religion in our relationship with God can for some be good and very helpful depending on the character, makeup and needs of that person. For many it can impede ones personal relationship with ones God. One can lock oneself into a stylised and rigid form of worship which treats God as an object of worship. This can be far removed from a personal, warm, grateful, appreciative relationship with ones God.
For example take a learned Biography of Nelson Mandela written by someone who has read all that is written about him and interviewed people who knew him but has never actually met or spoke with him, and contrast with the personal understanding and memories of someone who knew him well, spoke regularly with him, was imprisoned with him for years.
In the former you know about the person (second hand knowledge) in the latter you actually know the person and have a personal relationship with him.
That is why some of our church leaders are obsessed with form, correct doctrine, unchanging formulas and closely regulated liturgy. For them God is an object to be worshipped with the correct words and actions but they have not met God personally. They know much about God but do not know God as a person. That is the big difference between Pope Francis and those who oppose him.
This highlights what I have mentioned to you over the years; the ongoing tension within our Church (and within all religions) between Law and Prophesy. Between going by the book and risking change. Between staying in the boat and stepping out onto the water.
God loves all his children unconditionally whether they stay safely in the boat or trust in God and venture out onto the waves. But if I want to really know my God I must hold his hand and to reach him I must walk on the water.
So the question for me personally is: “But what about you. Who do you say I am.”
The Four Gospels seem to differ slightly in their understanding of who Jesus of Nazareth was.
You will remember the questions Jesus asked his Apostles; ‘Who do people say I am?” and “Who do you say I am?”
The answer to this question was hotly debated in the early church. It was only finally settled in 325 ad. at the Council of Nicaea where the Nicene Creed was produced, (which you all have on your mass cards.)
A side issue to this central question was how much did Jesus of Nazareth know and understand about himself and when did he know and understand it.
The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke) seem to give us good grounds for thinking that Jesus grew in understanding of who he was and what his mission was as he grew physically and mentally – just like you and I.
On the other hand the Gospel of John seems to indicate that from the very beginning of his life Jesus of Nazareth fully understood who he was and what his mission was and exactly how it would unfold.
Today’s Gospel reading is a case in point.
If you hold that Jesus knew and understood everything from the very beginning, that he was sent to bring salvation to all mankind irrespective of ethnicity, then why refuse to help the Canaanite woman because she was not a Jew?
On the other hand if you hold that Jesus grew in wisdom and understanding through out his life, as we read in Luke “And Jesus advanced (in) wisdom and age and favour before God and man,” then we can see that this was what was happening in today’s reading. We see Jesus beginning to understand that God’s promises were not just for the Chosen People-the Jews-but for all peoples, Jews and Gentiles.
Now, the interplay between Jesus and the Canaanite woman in todays Gospel reading makes sense. It shows his growing understanding that faith is not the province of the Jews only but is found in, and belongs to, all peoples.
This question of the admission or exclusion of the Gentile races was a major problem for the first century of the Church’s existence. Peter and Paul had a big confrontation on the question which was the subject of the first general council of the Church.
It is interesting that it is the pleading of a suffering mother fearful for the welfare of her child and her obvious faith in God, that brings Jesus to his senses and a fuller understanding of his mission.
Last Tuesday was the feast of the Assumption of Our Blessed Lady (Mary) into heaven.
Devotion to Mary is found from the earliest days of the church. I can only guess at the distress and grief of a mother witnessing the torture and slow execution of her child. I can only guess at the distress and grief of a mother receiving the dead body of her child in her arms and having to bury it far from home. No wonder we should, and do, cry out to Mary in our distress and grief.
Depending on your understanding of the Bible, today’s reading can be taken as a factual account of what actually happened or as a symbolic narrative or parable to give the Christians of that time courage in their trials and to strengthen their faith.
At the time of writing this narrative the Church (the boat) was being persecuted and Christians executed and scattered (buffeted by the waves and wind).
Despite their plight Jesus was with them (Jesus went out to them, walking on the water).
They were terrified and cried out in fear but Jesus said to them: ‘take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’
The ambiguity of their faith is graphically demonstrated by the actions of Peter; brash overconfidence immediately followed by fear and doubt.
The message is clear: ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt’.
For a generation now the boat (the Church) has been buffeted by the winds and the waves. Scandals have multiplied. Church leadership has been found wanting or totally lacking. Many have abandoned the Church. Vocations to the priesthood and religious life have fallen dramatically. Up to recently, efforts at rejuvenation have been confined to regression to the certainties of the past.
Today a new spirit is slowly filtering into the life of our church. A spirit of freedom, co-operation, mutual respect and appreciation of each others talents.
In the Old Testament we read, time and time again, how the Israelites (the chosen people) wandered from belief in the One True God and his teaching and how this was closely followed by defeat and disaster. These defeats and disasters were interpreted as punishments from God for their faithlessness.
We know that Our God does not punish us his children. It is we who, when we abandon faith in our God and wallow in selfishness, greed, exploitation, national and tribal interests, to the detriment of unity, generosity, mutual respect and sharing of the gifts Our God has given us, allow injustice and oppression to creep in and become the norm. It is this situation, which we ourselves bring about, that causes wars, economic disasters, financial collapse, deprivation and hunger.
Our Church’s troubles, recent and present, are the direct results of the very same causes which we (our Church) have brought upon ourselves. For too long our church has concentrated on control of the member, political influence and preserving the good name of the institution at all costs to the detriment of the total wellbeing of the members.
The buffeting of the winds and the waves which our church has and is experiencing are the direct result of our own waywardness.
But Jesus of Nazareth is calling out to us ‘take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’
We must let Jesus climb back into our boat (into our church, into our parish, into our hearts). Only then will the wind die down and the calm of total trust in our God abide in our hearts, our parish and our church.
So now is a time of great opportunity for our church and our parish and for each one of us. We have learned, the hard way (the only way), that seeking influence, control, power and blind obedience are not God’s way. We have learned that power corrupts and our church is no exception. I must now cultivate an open and gentle heart, a receptive and welcoming parish and a church which is of service to all God’s children.
I have read the gospel of the eighteenth Sunday rather than that of the Transfiguration because it seems to me to be so relevant to our situation today.
I think that we dodge the bullet when we say that the feeding of the five thousand is a prefiguration of the Eucharist where we are all fed spiritually with the Bread of Life.
To my mind Jesus sees the many people in front of him. He sees that they are physically hungry and thirsty. His disciples attitude mirrors my reaction and maybe yours; ‘Send them away so that they may go into the surrounding country and villages and buy something for themselves to eat.’ It side steppes the questions as to whether food is available for buying and do they have the money to buy it.
Jesus simply tells them; ‘You give them something to eat.’
For me the message of today’s Gospel reading is that the example of Jesus and his disciples sharing the little they had with those nearest to them was the catalyst which prompted others to share what they had brought along with them with those who had forgotten to bring anything or had nothing to bring.
We are told, ‘They all ate and were satisfied.’
Surely our own experience is that when we get together and share there is not only enough to go around but some left over.
In the Gospel reading for the Feast of the Transfiguration a voice from the bright cloud (God the Father) tells us; ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.’
The glaring need today; The obvious need which we are all dodging and sidestepping – what this generation will be condemned for by future generations – is our attitude towards and treatment of migrants and refugees be they political or economic. The shame of the years of slavery will be compared with what we are allowing to happen today.
Be totally sure that if Jesus of Nazareth were here today he would be found on the shore of the Mediterranean or Aegean sea rescuing migrants from the water or urging Governments to accept and care for refugees.
We are inclined to brand those brave and selfless enough to go to the help of refugees and migrants as partly responsible for encouraging the migrants. Even some of our political leaders suggest that they be left to drown to discourage others.
How unchristian can we be?
I console myself that I am doing my little bit while secretly aware that I could and should do much, much more.
We console ourselves as a Parish that we are doing our little bit while secretly aware that we could and should do much, much more.
I must listen to Jesus of Nazareth telling me, ‘You give them something to eat.’
And the voice of the Father telling me, ‘This is my beloved Son. Listen to him.’
Do I want to lie on my death bed bitterly regretting how little I did to help my brothers and sisters in dire need?