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Connecting to Jesus in the centre PDF Print E-mail

Sunday 07 April 2019: Fifth Sunday of Lent

The bibleThe Lord has done great things for us

Pope Francis’ Intention for April is for doctors and their humanitarian collaborators in war zones who risk their lives to save the lives of others.

Jesus famously said he could not work miracles in Nazareth because a prophet is without honour in his own country. He preached and healed elsewhere. Pope Francis picked up this insight when he spoke of the Church as a field hospital. He calls on Catholics, and especially priests, to leave the comfort zone where we are surrounded by people who think alike. We are to sally out into no man’s land to share the life of people who are on the edges of faith and of church. The Pope’s intention for April expresses this spirit when he asks us to pray for doctors and their companions – nurses, refugee staff and so on – who risk their lives in places of violence. Their world is no man’s land; the field hospital is their home. In their work they share the fears of the local people and must face their own fears, often far from the support of families and the comforts they have left behind.

Good doctors do more than heal the body. They are people on to whom we can transfer the anxieties and desperation that go with living in dangerous and disease-ridden places. Even if we are fortunate enough not to need their services we feel security in knowing they are there if we need them. They are a light of security and civilisation in a dark and dangerous place. They are one of the pillars around which a community may be built. Many doctors, indeed, remain pillars of community even when the time of immediate danger has passed. Weary Dunlop, for example, was the moral centre of many Australia soldiers captured and sent to the Burma Railway, and remained a centre of hope when they returned to Australia burdened by their memories. Other doctors who gave years of their life to work in the precarious refugee camps at the Cambodian Border with Thailand returned with the people to Cambodia. There they served in hospitals to which the villagers came.

It is easy to take for granted volunteers who risk their safety and health in order to accompany people whose lives are under threat. We notice them only when war claims them as victims as they and their clinics are destroyed by hostile or ‘friendly’ fire. We see only their white coats and ignore their faces, losing sight of the hopes that brought them to the war zone, the people who love them and whom they love in a safer place, the pride or self-doubt they feel in their work, and the work they may have to do to calm their fears and to hang in. They are not isolated individuals. They bring with them a network of relationships which are thickened and enriched in the war zones. In Christian faith we are all linked with medical staff and the endangered people whom they serve through the communion of saints: the network of relationships that stretches through time and well as through place, in which Jesus Christ is the centre. Pope Francis’ intention this month asks us to make that connection alive in our minds and hearts.

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ | Image courtesy of pixabay.com

 
Lent: A time to focus on what matters PDF Print E-mail

Sunday 31 March 2019: Fourth Sunday of Lent

Your brother here was dead and has come to life

CrucifixMost of the important and lasting customs are not planned but grow like Topsy. So if we want to understand all their strands and adapt them for our own times it helps to look back through their history. That is the case with Lent, too.

Initially Lent linked together a practice common in the ancient world and the Christian focus on Jesus death. The practice was fasting, which was part of Jewish religious life and also of many other religions and philosophies. People had found that the experience of fasting clears the mind, takes one out of the ordinary distractions and compensations of daily life, and encourages a focus on what matters deeply. As we dream of chocolate bars and snacks it also reveals our weakness and inconstancy. When we fast we wait until the end of fasting and the opening of the lolly jar. It is a humbling and purifying exercise that takes us out of our daily world and time.

The Christian focus on fasting was drawn from a saying of Jesus. When asked why his disciples did not fast Jesus said, ‘They do not fast while the bridegroom is with them. When he is taken away, then they will fast’. The early Christians understood that Jesus was taken away through his crucifixion, but returns in his Resurrection and at the end of time. So dedicated to fasting the day before the weekly Eucharist when they gathered to celebrate Jesus’ rising from the dead.

In later centuries Christians dedicated a special week and developed special liturgies to remember the Easter events of Jesus’ passion, death and rising. That led naturally to an extended time of fasting in preparation for it. The forty days given to the celebration recalled stories central to Christian faith: the forty years during which the Jews wandered before gaining entry into the promised land, and the forty days that Jesus spent in the desert before he was baptised and entered his public life of preaching.

The fasting took many forms, many of them very rigorous. Some Christians neither ate nor drank until a vegan meal at the end of the day. That must have been difficult for farm workers in the Middle East. They also developed concessions for illness and age, which have been so extended over the centuries that Western Christians no longer experience the effects of earlier fasting. The Muslim season of Ramadan offers the best parallel to the centrality and severity of the earlier Lenten fast and its focus on companionship and later feasting.

The deeper meaning of Lent and its fast, however, remains. It is a time for focusing on what matters, on allowing the death and rising of Jesus to become central in our lives, of waiting for God in prayer, and to turn our minds and hearts to these things as a community. It is a time for attending. The challenge for us is to make space in the busyness and routine of our daily lives for reflection.

Fr Andrew Hamilton SJ | Image courtesy of pixabay.com

 
Bearing fruit in our lives PDF Print E-mail

Sunday 24 March 2019: Third Sunday of Lent

Fig treeUnless you repent you will all perish as they did

As we settle into our Lenten journey, the first two reading of today’s liturgy remind us of our destination. And the gospel reading brings us the advice of Jesus to be alert, ready to enjoy the blessings that can be ours at the end of the journey.

...Another Lent! How many Lenten journeys have we made – and with what profit to show? How many Lents will we see in the future? Luke - sensitive to the fullness of the Good News brought by the Saviour – links Jesus’ call to conversion with the parable of the barren fig tree. As we ponder Lent’s call to a more generous Christian commitment, we do so in the presence of the compassionate and patient God revealed to us in Jesus Christ: ‘Leave it; it may bear fruit’...

Extract by John Thornhill sm - read more at The Emmaus Series | Image courtesy of pixabay.com

 
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