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Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – a reflection on the Sunday readings

by Br Julian McDonald cfc

In the synagogue (of Nazareth) Jesus stood up and was handed a scroll of the prophet Isaiah, and he found the passage where it was written: “the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor, to bring liberty to captives…” Rolling up the scroll, he handed it back to the attendant and sat down. All in the synagogue had their eyes fixed on him. Then he began by saying to them: “Today, this Scripture passage is fulfilled in your hearing.” Luke 1, 1-4; 4, 14-21

With Epiphany behind us, we now move into the “Year of Luke”. (The miracle of Cana was celebrated by early Christians, and still is by the Eastern Churches, as the fourth revelation of Jesus to the world. The other three were the birth of Jesus, the adoration of the Magi and the baptism of Jesus. These were all part of Epiphany.) Luke deserves an introduction because of the perspective he brings to writing about Jesus. He was born a Greek, he studied to become a medical doctor, he was attracted to Jesus through his contact with Paul, and he came into the early Christian community without the prejudices and expectations held by the Jewish people. The Jews saw themselves as “the Chosen People”, and, indeed, they were. They led the ancient world in promoting monotheism. They firmly held that there is One God, not a panoply of gods. They had the benefit of the teaching and leadership of Moses and the prophets, and they held firmly to the belief that the Messiah would be born into their race and would come to rescue them from the oppression that had been visited on them for centuries. Their utter conviction that they were “the Chosen People” led many of them to adopt a sense of superiority and the unshakable belief that the Messiah would come in power and strength to scatter their enemies and establish them in comfort and security. They could not accept that the Messiah would find his way into the world as a baby born in humble and obscure circumstances, even though one of their prophets had proclaimed that. Luke, then, was able to look at the story of Jesus with the objectivity and discipline of a scholar with a scientific background and with a vantage point from outside Judaism.

With that long introduction, I begin today’s reflection with a story. While I rarely recommend books, I have no hesitation in pointing to Rachel Naomi Remen’s book entitled My Grandfather’s Blessings. It is a book for everyone, but especially for those who have, have had or are afraid of getting a very serious illness. Rachel’s very name suggests her Jewish background, and her grandfather was an orthodox Jewish Rabbi. She herself is a survivor of a lifelong, chronic illness. This is one of her stories from My Grandfather’s Blessings:
“Richard was a widower. His wife had died a long and painful death from cancer. After some time, he met Celia and they came to love each other and each other’s children dearly. Less than a year into their courtship, Celia discovered a lump in her breast and went for testing. She was alone when her doctor informed her that the lump was malignant. Her first thoughts were for Richard and his children. They had been terribly wounded by cancer only a few years before, and Celia reasoned that she could not bring this terror back into their lives again. She called Richard immediately and broke off their relationship without telling him why. She declined his phone calls and returned his letters over a few weeks. However, he persisted until she agreed to see him. She intended their meeting to be one of goodbye.
When they met, she could see the hurt etched into his face. But Richard gently asked her why she had broken up with him. Fighting back tears she told him the truth: that she had discovered a lump that turned out to be malignant, and that she had undergone surgery to remove it and was about to start chemotherapy. ‘You and the children have been through this once already, and I’m not going to put you through it again’, she explained. ‘You have cancer?’ he asked. Silently she nodded as the tears ran down her face. ‘Celia’, he said, and began to chuckle. ‘We can do cancer. We know how to do it. I just thought you didn’t love me anymore.’ But she did, and they got through it together, happily married.” (Rachel Naomi Remen, My Grandfather’s Blessings, Penguin Putnam, N.Y. 2001)

As baptised members of the Christian community, we have inherited the blessing of God’s Spirit and the invitation to “bring glad tidings and “proclaim the Lord’s favour” to the poor, the blind, people in prison, the oppressed, the forgotten and the helpless. We all have the potential to breathe life and hope into others, just as Celia and Richard did for one another, when we do so, knowing that God’s Spirit is our guide.

Having been anointed by God’s Spirit in the Jordan, Jesus returned to his home-town of Nazareth, where he was invited by the synagogue officials to read and reflect on the Scriptures. For a moment, let’s imagine the scene: The people of Nazareth had surely heard that Jesus had been making an impression wherever he went. His growing reputation and the acclaim he had received had preceded his home-coming.
Having read a passage from Isaiah with which the congregation would have been familiar, there was an expectation that he would offer a reflection or commentary on what he had just read. Instead of doing that, he looked straight at the gathering and, without explanation or qualification, announced: “This is taking place right here, right now in this synagogue. Moreover, you’re hearing it from the mouth of the Messiah himself, from the one whom our people have been expecting for centuries.”

For a congregation looking for some insight into the passage from Isaiah that they had just listened to, this was beyond the pale. To have one they had seen grow up among them make an assertion like that was tantamount to blasphemy to the people of Nazareth. They interpreted what they heard as one of their own blowing his own trumpet and simply big-noting himself. That, understandably, accounts for the hostile reception they gave him. But that’s the focus of the gospel-reading for next week.

Today’s first reading from Nehemiah and the second reading from Corinthians complement the gospel-reading. 450 years before Jesus, Nehemiah had encouraged the people of Israel to rebuild the holy city of Jerusalem. They set about that task with a will, and saw the day when their efforts brought success. In a record homily that went for six hours, Nehemiah encouraged and congratulated the people, assuring them that what they had achieved was testimony to what God had done for them. That was something over which to rejoice and be grateful. Of comfort to them was the realisation that they were in God’s hands, and that was all that mattered. Paul, in turn, assured the Christian community in Corinth that as members of the people of God they were all of equal importance, essential to bringing life to one another, and all having the same status, with no one either inferior or superior. In speaking to the people among whom he grew up, Jesus stated that his mission was to bring God’s promises to realisation. As his disciples, and inspired by God’s Spirit we have the very same mission. And that’s not an option. It’s an imperative. Otherwise, we’re only play-acting.

Posted by Gay Walsh in Sunday Readings Reflection, Uncategorised

2018 Calendar

Posted by Bob Birchall in Uncategorised

Make this Advent a season of True Conversation (4)

prepared by Fr Michael Whelan sm

It is well nigh impossible to have true conversation at speed!

Slow down – with yourself and with other people.

Choose to do some ordinary things each day deliberately:
Making a cup of coffee.
Setting the table.
Eating a meal together.
Washing your face.
Walking along the street.
Making the bed.
Learn to wait upon the moment. Dwell. Abide.
Listen with the ear of the heart!

“Nothing is ever completed … Incompleteness is a part of nature and it takes
great art or great wisdom to know when to lay down the brush …
we should always avoid perfectionism.”
(Jean Monnet, Memoirs, Trans. Richard Mayne, Doubleday, 1978, 521.)

Advent Prayer
(To be said each morning)

“Lord, keep my heart always set on You today,
so that from it will flow the springs of life.
Protect me from crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from me.
Let my eyes look directly forward,
and my gaze be straight before you.
Keep straight the path of my feet,
and all my ways will be sure.
Let me not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn my feet away from evil. Amen”
(Adapted from Proverbs 4:23-27)

“When you visualized a man or a woman carefully, you could always begin to feel pity — that was a quality God`s image carried with it. When you saw the lines at the corners of the eyes, the shape of the mouth, how the hair grew, it was impossible to hate. Hate was just a failure of imagination.”
(Graham Green, The Power and the Glory, Penguin, 1971, 131)

Posted by Bob Birchall in Uncategorised

Make this Advent a season of True Conversation (3)

prepared by Fr Michael Whelan sm

The art of asking open questions can help with true conversation.

An open question is a question which I ask but do not answer.

Learn to just listen!

Practice asking yourself open questions as you go about your day:
What is happening here?
What is happening inside me?
What is happening between us?
What am I feeling?
What might he/she be feeling?

Open questioning will often surface obstacles to relationships.
Simply face what surfaces, ask the next open question and listen.
Resist the temptation to analyze.
Trust the truth of it.

The truth will set you free!

“Life is not so much beginnings and endings as it is middles, middles that don’t measure up — and our happiness depends on how we come to terms with the pale reflections of our dreams.
(Paul D. Zimmerman, “Middles and Muddles,” Newsweek, September 27, 1971, 106)

Advent Prayer
(To be said each morning)

“Lord, keep my heart always set on You today,
so that from it will flow the springs of life.
Protect me from crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from me.
Let my eyes look directly forward,
and my gaze be straight before you.
Keep straight the path of my feet,
and all my ways will be sure.
Let me not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn my feet away from evil. Amen”

(Adapted from Proverbs 4:23-27)

“We exist solely for this, to be the place He has chosen for His presence, His manifestation in the world, His epiphany.”
Thomas Merton: Spiritual Master – The Essential Writings, edited by Lawrence S Cunningham, Paulist Press, 1992, 425

Posted by Bob Birchall in Uncategorised

Make this Advent a season of True Conversation (2)

prepared by Fr Michael Whelan sm

Read this poem out loud thoughtfully several times:

Out in the dark, I know, sing a thousand voices;
and the owl, the poet’s bird, and the saint’s white moth
blunder against my window, the frog in the rain rejoices.
I pledge to the night and day my life’s whole truth.
And you, who speak in me when I speak well,
Withdraw not your grace, leave me not dry and cold,
I have praised you in the pain of love, I would praise you still
In the slowing of the blood, the time when I grow old.

(Judith Wright, “Prayer” in Judith Wright: Collected Poems,
Angus & Robertson, 1994, 229)

“At that time I will change the speech of the peoples to a pure speech,
that all of them may call on the name of the LORD
and serve him with one accord.”
(Zephaniah 3:9)

Advent Prayer

(To be said each morning)

“Lord, keep my heart always set on You today,
so that from it will flow the springs of life.
Protect me from crooked speech,
and put devious talk far from me.
Let my eyes look directly forward,
and my gaze be straight before you.
Keep straight the path of my feet,
and all my ways will be sure.
Let me not swerve to the right or to the left;
turn my feet away from evil. Amen”

(Adapted from Proverbs 4:23-27)

“Set the believers an example in speech and conduct,
in love, in faith, in purity.”

(1Timothy 4:12)

Posted by Bob Birchall in Uncategorised

Twelth Sunday in Ordinary Time 2017

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time
“Can you not buy two sparrows for a penny? And yet not one falls to the ground without your Father knowing…So there is no need to be afraid; you are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.”
Matthew 10, 26-33

One of the very clear messages that Jesus gives in today’s gospel is that we really matter to God. If God cares for the sparrows, God will care much more for us, who are worth more than hundreds of sparrows.

I have to admit that I’m really not an admirer of Facebook. That’s because I struggle to use it, and, besides, it takes too much time. However, I discovered recently that the chief operations officer of Facebook, Sheryl Sandberg is rated as one of the most visible and successful women in corporate America. Just three years ago, her husband, Dave, died of a heart attack while they were holidaying together in Mexico. In April this year, a book Sheryl Sandberg co-authored with psychologist, Adam Grant was published. The book is entitled: Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, and is an account of how she and her two children – a 7-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son – dealt with their grief and loss. Early in the book, Sandberg, reflecting on the inability of friends to offer comfort or even acknowledge Dave’s death, had this to say:
“People continually avoided the subject. I went to a close friend’s house for dinner, and she and her husband made small talk the entire time. I listened, mystified, keeping my thoughts to myself. I got emails from friends asking me to fly to their cities to speak at their events without acknowledging that travel might be more difficult for me now. Oh, it’s just an overnight? Sure, I’ll see if Dave can come back to life and put the kids to bed. I ran into friends at local parks who talked about the weather. Yes! The weather has been weird with all this rain and death.
Many people who had not experienced loss, even some very close friends, didn’t know what to say to me or my kids. Their discomfort was palpable, especially in contrast to our previous ease. As the elephant in the room went unacknowledged, it started acting up, trampling over my relationships. If friends didn’t ask how I was doing, did that mean they didn’t care? My friend and co-author Adam Grant, a psychologist, said he was certain that people wanted to talk about it but didn’t know how. I was less sure. Friends were asking, “How are you?” but I took this as more of a standard greeting than a genuine question. I wanted to scream back, “My husband just died, how do you think I am?” I didn’t know how to respond to pleasantries. Aside from that, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln? (Remember, Abraham Lincoln was assassinated at the theatre.)
…Until we acknowledge it, the elephant is always there. By ignoring it, those in pain isolate themselves and those who could offer comfort create distance instead. Both sides need to reach out. Speaking with empathy and honesty is a good place to start.” Sheryl Sandberg & Adam Grant, Option B: Facing Adversity, Building Resilience, and Finding Joy, Penguin Random House, New York, April 2017

Posted by superadmin in Sunday Readings Reflection, Uncategorised

About

About Catalyst for Renewal

In July 1994, ten Catholics met over lunch in a private house in Sydney to talk about renewal in the Church. The discussion continued over the second half of 1994, so that by the end of the year the name Catalyst for Renewal had been chosen and our mission stated in the following way:

“We are believers who are attempting to establish a forum for conversation within the Catholic Church of Australia Our aim is to prompt open exchanges among the community of believers, mindful of the diversity of expressions of faith in contemporary Australia. This springs explicitly from the spirit of pope John XXIII and Vatican II: “Let there be unity in what is necessary, freedom in what is unsettled, and charity in any case.” (Gaudium et Spes, n.92)”

Catalyst for Renewal was incorporated as an Incorporated Association in 1996.

Over the subsequent years, Catalyst for Renewal has successfully pursued its mission, establishing forums for conversation including:

  • Spirituality in the Pub (initiated at Paddington in Sydney in 1995);
  • The Mix (1996 – 20nn);
  • Catalyst Dinners;
  • Forums, including Bishop’s Forums;
  • Q & A in the Crypt;
  • Reflection Mornings and Retreats.

Within Catalyst, we use the word ‘conversation’ with specific meaning. As expressed by Michael Whelan SM, “That meaning is derived from the word’s etymology, which it shares with two Latin words, conversari, meaning “to dwell,” “to keep company with” or “to abide,” and convertere, meaning “to change,” “to convert,” “to alter,” “to refresh” or “to turn.” The first of these two movements – the conversari – is a movement towards the other. I, as a given subject take the initiative and make a choice to be with you in some positive and creative way. The second – convertere – is a movement towards myself. I, as a given subject, open myself to discovery and change in and through this encounter… Our future depends on our ability to engage each other in conversation.”

Today Catalyst continues to support over 20 SIP venues across NSW and Victoria, Dinners, Forums and other opportunities for spiritual reflection and conversation. We also auspice the Rosemary Goldie Lecture. Information about our activities will be found throughout this website.

 

Michael Whelan SM, 2007, WAYS OF KNOWING: CLEARING THE GROUND FOR CONVERSATION
http://www.acu.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0007/92536/Ways_of_Knowing.pdf

Profile of Catalyst, date unknown
https://catalystforrenewal.org.au/profile-of-catalyst/

 

Financial and Operating Information:

Catalyst for Renewal is a Charity registered with the Australian Charities and Not For Profit Commission – ACNC, and under NSW legislation. We submit annual reports to the ACNC and refer you to that website for further information.

We welcome any donations with great thanks, but we do not have deductible gift recipient (DGR ) status, ie donations to Catalyst for Renewal are not tax deductible.

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CfR Management Report 2020

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