The Deep End
Fifth Sunday of Easter
2 May 2021
Have you ever visited a vineyard, with its rows of vines, heavy with clusters of ripe grapes? If you're not familiar with vines, think of an apple tree laden with apples, or a fruit bush ripe for picking. In today's Gospel, Jesus uses the metaphor of a vine to describe his relationship with his disciples. He tells them that he is the vine, and they are the branches. The life of Jesus flows into us and sustains us, and this is the reason our lives can bear fruit in love, in kindness, patience, compassion and welcome.
The symbolism of the vine works on many levels. If a branch is separated from the vine, it cannot flourish on its own. It must be connected to the vine from which it gets its nourishment. Each of us must be firmly rooted in Jesus and nourish that relationship. He invites us to 'remain' in him - to rest in him, to be part of him. And if you look at a vine plant, often its branches are so entangled, it can be hard to know where one ends and another begins. We note that Jesus is addressing the disciples as a group rather than as individuals: 'you are the branches'. We are a community, and we grow together, bound together by the love of God.
Today, we reflect on what it means to be so intimately connected with Jesus, the true vine. We bring to mind the many gifts he has given us, and the ways in which his love bears fruit in our lives.
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Sixth Sunday of Easter
9 May 2021
All you need is love
'Love? Above all things I believe in love. Love is like oxygen. Love is a many-splendoured thing. Love lifts us up where we belong. All you need is love.' In an attempt to express the depth of his love, the character Christian from the film Moulin Rouge pulls together the lyrics of some of the most famous love songs of recent decades. Since time began, poetry, prose, and song have attempted to put into words the great mystery that is love. 'At the touch of love, everyone becomes a poet,' the philosopher Plato put it.
Today's Gospel offers one of the most eloquent passages on love in the Gospels. It reveals the vision of Jesus for his followers and explains how we should treat one another. We are to love each other with the same love Jesus showed during his time on earth, that great and generous love that culminated in his 'laying down his life for his friends'. It is in the way we love one another, the way we understand and forgive and support one another, that we experience the life and love of Jesus.
There are more than 20 references to love in today's readings. In the second reading we hear that 'everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God'. That love that God showed by sending his Son for us, is the same generous, wholehearted, self-sacrificing love we are called to show others - all others. God does not have favourites.
'We find it so hard to accept the revelation that it is God's delight to be worshipped in the way we touch and look at each other, in the way we listen and talk to each other, in the way we forgive and promise to start all over again.' (Daniel O'Leary)
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The Ascension of the Lord
16 May 2021 o World Communications Day
Go out to the whole world
Today marks the 55th World Communications Day, and the theme for this year is 'Come and See: Communicating by encountering people where and as they are'. In his message to mark the occasion, Pope Francis emphasises the importance of meeting people where they are, just as Jesus did with those he encountered: 'We need to go and see them for ourselves, to spend time with people, to listen to their stories and to confront reality, which always in some way surprises us.' All communication, he says, should strive to be clear and honest, whether in the media, on the internet, in the Church's preaching, or in social interaction.
He has a particular message for all who use social media: 'Thanks to the internet we have the opportunity to report what we see, what is taking place before our eyes, and to share it with others. At the same time, the risk of misinformation being spread on social media has become evident to everyone… All of us are responsible for the communications we make, for the information we share, for the control that we can exert over fake news by exposing it. All of us are to be witnesses of the truth: to go, to see and to share.'
It is fitting that this day coincides with the Feast of the Ascension. Before he is taken into heaven, Jesus issues his final instruction: 'Go out to the whole world; proclaim the Good News to all creation.' Our challenge is to communicate by encountering people, where they are and as they are.
'Teach us to go out and see,
teach us to listen,
not to entertain prejudices
or draw hasty conclusions.'
Pope Francis' message
for the 55th World Communications Day
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23 May 2021
The Spirit will guide
In today's Gospel, we see that Jesus is comfortable with an element of mystery. Speaking to the disciples before his arrest, Jesus is preparing them for the gift of the Spirit. The word he often uses is 'Advocate', meaning helper or comforter, indicating the disciples will not be left to struggle on alone. We hear Jesus say that the complete truth is too much for the disciples now. The mysteries of his life, death and Resurrection, and the implications for his followers - all will become clearer in due course. The Spirit will guide you, he says. Not everything is revealed at once.
Then in our first reading from Acts, we recall the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, just as Jesus promised. The disciples are gathered together when they have a powerful experience of the Holy Spirit, urging them out into the streets, proclaiming the Good News. The time has come. They must have remembered Jesus' promise then, finally understanding what he meant when he said the Spirit would lead them, when the time was right.
The Spirit is still at work in our world. As our journey continues - as humanity, as church, as individuals - the Spirit unveils God's message for our place and time. The Spirit is that life-giving force that animates our world, inspiring and energising us. Our task is to listen, to be awake to the many ways God speaks to us and calls us into the life of God.
'I have always pleaded for a deep listening to the voice of the artist in our midst, and also to the supreme artist who tries to lead us to completion, the Holy Spirit of God.' (Mark Patrick Hederman)
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The Most Holy Trinity
30 May 2021
I am with you
Today's Gospel is often referred to as the 'Great Commission'. It contains the instructions of the Risen Jesus to the disciples to spread the Good News to the ends of the earth, to teach and to baptise 'in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit'. As we celebrate Trinity Sunday today, we pay attention in particular to the very last words of Matthew's Gospel: 'And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.' Jesus will be with his followers through the gift of the Holy Spirit, God's presence with us.
We read that some of the disciples were hesitant when they encountered Jesus on the mountain. They had lost him to death, and now he was risen and with them again in the flesh. They may have felt they weren't ready or able for the task he was handing over to them. These first disciples were an imperfect group of people, yet Jesus chose them to spread God's vision of love, compassion and justice throughout the world. Perhaps, like some of the disciples, we are fearful or doubtful. At a time when everything is changing so rapidly, it can be difficult to navigate our own faith journey, never mind communicate it to others. Yet we have Jesus' assurance that he is with us, with the love and strength we need. The Holy Spirit is at work, inspiring and guiding us, shaping our lives, helping us to make the love of God present to all we meet.
'Love is the greatest force in the universe. It is the heartbeat of the moral cosmos. He who loves is a participant in the being of God.' (Martin Luther King Jr)
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