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Reflection, 17 February 2019. (Lk 6:17,20-26)
To all of us, the blessings of following the ‘Son of Man’ and living according to the rules of his Realm. I prefer Tom Wright’s translation ‘Blessings on . . . . .’ for these Beatitudes because I can get a sense of gifts and grace being offered to people who will continue to suffer poverty, hunger, grief and oppression while ‘happy’ can suggest a superficial feeling related only to our material existence. I am not afflicted by any of those physical conditions (even though today I am laid up with stitches in a wound on my leg) and yet I continue to be grateful for many blessings which confirm my reliance on Divine Mercy, my longing for Love and my share Creation’s suffering. I am still learning how to be a joyful prophet trusting that the Creator is always acting according to Love’s rule of perpetual blessing.
As I wonder about the nature of being blest, I think of Jesus giving ‘life to the full’ and how the significant gifts for me have been those helping me to evolve as a ’human one’ with Jesus being the ‘first-fruit’ of the latest evolutionary development. He has come to reveal the way of self-emptying as the ‘rule’ of his Realm in contrast to the way of Eve and Adam who want to be full of knowledge so that they can decide what is right (and wrong) for them – and they find themselves in ‘unhappy’ circumstances. The fully alive and evolved person acts in this world according to the ways of its deeper and unseen dimensions where blessing rules.
Jesus’ words turn upside-down the usual and traditional ways of thinking about ‘the good life’ common to most cultures. Luke puts him on ‘level ground’ with people from a variety of regions searching for something better and I sense that this mission continues through those who are fully alive ‘in Christ’. It was only about two hundred years ago that scientists and thinkers put forward ideas which culminated in Charles Darwin’s challenge to Christian orthodoxy in proposing ‘evolution by natural selection’ which became known as ‘survival of the fittest’. It took many years for humans to accept that they share common ancestors with apes and I suspect that it will take even longer to accept Jesus’ description of what it is to be the ‘fittest’ in his Realm and to trace our common ancestry all the way back 13.8 billion years to the Universe being ‘birthed’ by the Creator.
On Wednesday I went along to our Plenary Council 2020 gathering where a significant issue was the amount of blaming others we hear today. On Thursday, I went along to a presentation on the urgency of dealing with climate change and global warming which is one area where scapegoating takes a variety of forms and suggests a lack of true maturity and full humanity. I sense a challenge for those of us in so-called ‘developed’ cultures to accept our responsibility for making others poor, hungry, grieving and dispossessed and for those in an evolving Church culture to name how we have ‘missed the mark’ and to allow the Spirit to recreate us as people of blessing in an increasingly unhappy environment.
May each of us grow in appreciation of rewards already received and of responsibilities under the Law written in our hearts.
Reflection, 10 February 2019. (Lk 5:1-11)
To all of us, the faith to participate in the surprises of following Jesus. As I wonder whether Jesus was surprised on that morning at the numbers who came for his words and for healing, I can imagine Simon being a little surprised when Jesus wanted to make use of his boat and then being more surprised at Jesus’ teaching. I suspect that it was a coincidence – in the Spirit – that Jesus met Simon this way and that Simon was in the right place at the right time to encounter the Messiah who sees his strengths/weaknesses and then sees his faith/spontaneity/honesty when told to put out the nets and when calling himself ‘sinful’ and being fearful in such a Presence. The catch of fish would be a great surprise and even greater ones would come built on this kind of foundation and a willingness to ‘leave everything’.
I suspect that this build-up in the magnitude of the surprises is the way the spirit works for all who follow Jesus. Some of my moments of some surprise in the last week have included, on returning from Brisbane, to harvest plums, nectarines, figs, strawberries, mulberries, grapefruit and tomatoes – all the results of others’ labour. A further delight came when we welcomed a new member to our Plenary Council 2020 gathering and continued our discussions. I imagine this to be my little version of what happened to Isaiah, Peter and Paul and I think how often I am surprised by what emerges as I type up these reflections – and by the notion that Divine Grace might be working in and through me.
I can imagine dimly how Grace flowing in Jesus’ words and actions would attract Peter and others to follow him into mystery and surprise where they delight in learning and evolving, in being true to their deepest human nature. I am still a disciple learning what the Love at the heart of the Universe is revealing of itself in my little and precious life – for the sake of Jesus’ Realm, our common home. I think of Sir Isaac Newton, around three hundred years ago, studying, reflecting, learning and revealing his understanding of gravity as the force which runs the solar system and keeps us grounded on Earth. He added a surprising piece of the puzzle which is the story of Creation and which invites me to reflect on the power of attraction at work in both love and gravity. I suspect that matter has been unfolding out of Love for the past 13.8 billion years and that Grace has been drawing particles together from the beginning in order to make love incarnate and conscious – all the way to Resurrection. I continue to be surprised, grateful, and willing to gravitate to Jesus.
May each of us continue to heed the Word in our hearts, especially when it seems to go against our prior learnings and habits, for Jesus then will see our faith and draw us even closer.
Reflection, 3 February 2019. (Lk 4:21-30)
To all of us, the love and grace of the prophet to the nations. I appreciate Tom Wright’s comment that ‘gracious words’ might be better translated as ‘words of grace’ which refer to ‘the Lord’s year of favour’ in which healing, life and freedom are for everyone, especially the ‘poor, the captives, the blind and the downtrodden’ of all peoples. The people of Nazareth could not imagine that their God would bless the Romans and did not want reminders of Elijah in Zarephath and Naaman from Syria. As I reflect on how I might be called and to whom I might be sent, I wonder about the One who knew me before I was conceived and about my being ‘consecrated’ before I was born. I sense a call to be ready for new insights into how Love first touched me through my parents and family and plans to use me ‘for the sake of our common home’.
On Tuesday, I went to the funeral of the father of one of our brothers and joined two bishops and over a dozen priests celebrating the life of a well-known servant of the Brisbane Archdiocese – especially when singing ‘Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord!’ and the chorus ‘Glory! Glory! Hallelujah!’ – a song chosen by the deceased. It invited me to wonder how much of a battle we are enduring in this world which treats prophets much the same as they have been treated for thousands of years. Many people cannot imagine ‘God’ at all and seem to go with the voices in the crowd who do not want reminders of Ultimate Being and Authority who gets blamed for many of the wrongs in and around us. There is a huge task for prophets today and I read that the real evangelists are those who recognise that being a ‘saint’ begins with Love and continues ‘in Christ’ who enrages crowds and can still manage to walk away.
I realised this morning that I was inspired to book my flight tomorrow because there was a healing ritual during our community Mass today involving crossed candles being held to my throat. Even when I was making the booking months ago I thought it was a strange and even silly decision. Now I give thanks for that touch of grace as I wonder what is still being healed and how my new life will unfold. I suspect that I still have moments of ‘childish ways’ which are giving way to what I learned from my mother and hid away when she died – until recently. I rejoice that I am still loved.
Jesus may have begun 2000 years ago with outlandish ideas such as God’s grace being for every member of every nation but he still has much to teach us as we as a species struggle to move beyond childhood. Another outrageous notion put before us about five hundred years ago when Nicolaus Copernicus and soon Galileo Galilei spoke and wrote that the Sun was the centre of the solar system, not Earth which was just another circling planet. Most of us were not ready to have our cherished beliefs challenged. Now we are being told about the damage we are doing to ourselves and our environment. I wonder if today’s prophets are being ‘consecrated and appointed’ to tell of grace being for the healing and well-being of all species – and its being the only power capable of doing so.
May each of us grow and mature as members of the Cosmic Christ who is Priest, Prophet and King.
Reflection, 27 January 2019. (Lk 1:1-4,4:14-21)
To all of us, the anointing of the Spirit who sends us to proclaim the Lord’s favour. At community Mass this morning, we had the song ‘Take, Lord, Receive’ and I began to reflect on words such ‘wholly according to your will’ and how the Book of the Law read out by Ezra needed to become written on hearts before those words could by sung with meaning and intent – at least by me. I thought of it as a sort of theme song for the second half of life –with a special challenge for me take Jesus’ words deeper into my heart as a summary of what the Law is all about when it is alive and active rather than writing on a page. The mention of ‘the joy of the Lord’ at the end of the first reading also stays with me as a marker of how in tune I happen to be with my status as adopted, anointed and sent.
I have sensed that deep joy and peace on those occasions when I have been doing my little bit in sharing the good news in small groups such as during Lent, in our parish Listening and Dialogue Encounter and especially in Timor Leste. Luke’s gospel begins with the sense that it is virtually essential to tell the story of Jesus and the idea of proclaiming Divine Favour now stays with me as central to that account. Perhaps the Spirit has been setting me free and giving me new sight in this second half of my life so that I know from experience what this ‘favour’ means and have my own stories of encounter to share with those who remain poor, captive, blind and downtrodden – victims of all kinds of abuse and violence in a society which distrusts ‘church’ and which seeks security through consumerism and addictions.
I prayed in Mass for an increase in the gifts we need to live through climate change and I suspect that being able to tell the good news, including the stories of the Cosmic Christ and the Universe and our belonging to Christ’s body in this aspect of creation, is part of where the Spirit is leading us. I suspect that we are being called to be prepared for the times when God seems absent, to have answers when populations are displaced, suffering and dying – as happened just over 600 years ago when the Black Death killed perhaps half the population of Europe, and an even higher percentage of doctors, priests and those in monasteries.
As I ask myself what ‘good news’ might look like in dire circumstances, I think of joy, hope and faith ‘in Christ’ and his resurrection Presence. I think of how the Lord’s favour continues to guide me and teach me that I am a unique part of one body and am being given the same Spirit in whom even Jesus was immersed.
May each of us continue to drink this Spirit as we listen to Jesus and to his story ‘for the sake of our common home.’
Reflection, 20 January 2019. (Jn 2:1-11)
To all of us, growing grace to hear and do what Jesus tells us to do. I have come up to Brisbane for a couple of weeks which began yesterday with a gathering to celebrate our ministry in Timor Leste which has been formally handed over to ‘Mary Mackillop’ and local people. I enjoyed meeting others who had ‘served’ there with me (2008-2011), hearing stories of events before and after these years, and having memories come to mind. I look back and sense that in some ways it was easy to see what needed to be done in terms of water supply, security in times of conflict, education, health and food supplies. Then I remember the challenge of spreading the Gospel, the ‘best wine’, and how I found satisfaction in my efforts to do so with the pre-school teachers. Now I wonder how it is that this essential aspect of Christian mission was not mentioned, by me or anyone else, as we celebrated our achievements without voicing our thanks to the One who graced our efforts and kept most of us safe.
Our gathering did begin with Eucharist and I was rather distracted by memories of the people and events of those years. I wonder how empty are the ‘stone jars’ of me and my communities as we let go of earlier commitments and look for ways to serve in an environment, a land and planet, which has different aspects of being ‘forsaken’ and ‘abandoned’. The mother of Jesus, the Woman of suffering and wisdom, models how to respond now that Jesus’ time has come by going to him especially when all seems hopeless and shameful. Perhaps I am being called to a deeper faith which sees Divine Glory being revealed in those stories and to live in that faith as a servant filling emptiness with water ready for transformation.
In my limited and untutored understanding of the life and influence of the Prophet Muhammed, I see an example of the Spirit working through flawed humans to bring about peace and progress in the lives of millions. I wonder if his followers place too much emphasis on his words, on one area of land, Palestine, and on future judgement and resurrection in contrast to Jesus who lives and teaches Merciful Love present everywhere and faith evolving like a seed. Muslims have been instrumental in humanity’s evolution with their learning, poetry and mysticism as have Christians, including us in Timor Leste, and I sense that much more is possible when we come to believe that the Christ is amongst and within us, waiting for us to take our concerns to him who has the power to transform our offerings into ‘best wine’.
As I take my concerns to Jesus – global warming, extinctions, lack of faith, loss of beauty, threat of bushfires, vandalised Church and presbytery in Yea – I imagine that I am hearing him telling me to become intoxicated with his wine and to celebrate being ‘wedded’ and the Creator’s ‘delight’.
May each of us refuse to be silent about Zion and the New Jerusalem as we learn to see their glory and integrity throughout our common home.
Reflection 23 December 2018. (Advent & Christmas)
To all of us, the blessings of believing the promises made by the Creator about our unique place in the unfolding of the Cosmic Christ. I am learning to accept that the Resurrected Jesus is really with me and it is also an ongoing effort of faith to accept that he is guiding me along a pathway which is just for me and that I am actually fulfilling my life’s purpose. I can easily imagine that I have some idea of what my life is about and I wonder how it is that I seem to be failing in realising ‘my’ dream – and then I become aware of a variety of assurances that I am on the track that is right for me. It is as though the peace and joy I sense within are echoes of the peace and joy experienced by Elizabeth and Mary in their promised pregnancies.
One line from the Prophet Micah (chap 5) stays with me: the origin of the one who is to rule ‘goes back to the distant past, to the days of old.’ I think of the promise inherent in the 13.8 billion years of the Universe that Life will come and all will return to Oneness – in Resurrection-life. Micah was inspired to say this about seven hundred years before the time of Elizabeth, Mary and Jesus just as other wisdom figures in different parts of Earth were inspired to proclaim a deeper sense of what it is to be human. Psalms (attributed to David about a thousand years before Hebrews was written) speak of a ‘body’ being prepared and I think of Creation as the Body of Christ as well as of the Christmas event, Eucharist and Church. It seems to be summed up in the line, ‘I am coming to do your will!’ – which includes every created entity.
The writings of Lao Tzu talk of ‘Dao’, the way of the world and learning from the book of nature (water, trees, mountains and much more). Confucius spoke of loving others and how positive human interactions in the family point to a healthy society. The Buddha taught about suffering and enlightenment. Greek philosophers observed nature and brought the light of reason and logic to the beginnings of democracy. The Spirit was moving to bring peace to our evolving world and the most radical step is that our Creator and ‘Lord’ comes to a mother’s womb, is born and shares our struggles, suffering, joys and faith in ancient promises of a glorious future.
I was aware of my efforts to be in ‘peace’ as I, in my body, helped in our celebration of summer solstice on the day (Saturday) of our longest daylight hours for the year. I was carrying chairs, picking cherries and berries, participating in a wonderful shared lunch, helping to clean up and especially grateful for the circle dance which concluded the ritual. I reflected that Earth is very close to its shortest distance from the Sun and how our summer temperatures will rise as the days get shorter. Transformation takes on many shapes and involves aspects of the future coming to reality in the present.
May each of us celebrate the special blessings of peace and new life gifted to us in Christ as we wonder about our place in Incarnation. Merry Christmas.
Reflection, 16 December 2018. (Lk 3:10-18)
To all of us, the baptism of Holy Spirit which empowers us to live with the fire of the Cosmic Christ flowing in and through us. If we are made in the image and likeness of Zephaniah’s God, then we too will dance joyfully when we are fully in tune with that Love and living lives of faith, justice and simplicity as John the Baptist describes. When my spiritual director last week asked me how I might respond to a figure in a dream I remembered and whom I came to name as ‘Lady Wisdom’, the answer which emerged was, “Dance!” so I sense the Spirit urging me to do much more of what I occasionally do: to find a spot, inside or out on the grass, and to ‘move with freedom’ (with or without music). Then my end-of-year anxieties may turn into celebrations of new life as my own little Exodus continues.
There are many echoes of the Exodus story throughout the gospels as we meet people longing to be liberated and to enter the New Creation Kingdom promised in the Hebrew Scriptures. The stories tell how both Moses and Jesus were rescued as infants from imminent death, how they opted for the poor and introduced new covenants and commandments, and how they encountered Mystery in the wilderness. Moses learnt that murder was not the way and that his people were chosen to be a light to all the nations, even Pharaoh and the Egyptians – a radical notion which most could not comprehend, even over a thousand years later when Jesus, the Incarnate Cosmic Christ, was teaching that the real enemy is death and that true Exodus freedom involves Spirit and fire in the heart rather than in the sky.
It is still a radical message which demands a choice between life and death, blessing and curse, wheat and chaff as well as wilderness or Promised Land. I am finding that I have much to learn about just how near Jesus is with his Merciful Love and that I do learn when I choose the tolerance and thanksgiving of the second reading. I struggle to let go of my plans as I answer the call to be ‘brother’ to those in my community who are suffering the effects of growing old and dealing with illnesses. Then I find that my heart and thoughts are indeed guarded by the ‘peace of the Cosmic One’ whose plans are far beyond my understanding and imagining.
May each of us grow in appreciation of the great Exodus from fear to love and in new ways of giving witness to it for the sake of our common home.
Reflection, 9 December 2018. (Advent – Lk 3:1-6)
To all of us, deepening immersion into the metanoia which fills in ‘valleys’ and flattens ‘mountains’. I am glad when I recall some advice I read during the week concerning the spiritual journey which is about getting up every time I fall down and reconnecting to Spirit. Sometimes I can only pray for some of Paul’s ‘knowledge’ and ‘perception’ when I don’t know what valley I fell into or what hill I tripped over and there are times when I do recognise the empty spaces where love, faith and boldness are lacking and the overload where too much fear, control and comforting addictions get in the way. I give thanks that much has happened already in shaping the way for the Christ to walk in my life and in that of my communities even as I perceive more of what needs straightening and smoothing.
Luke highlights the emperors, kings, rulers and officials whose oppressive regimes needed significant levelling when Divine Integrity spoke to John in the wilderness rather than to any of the elites who could see no need for repentance. This applies as much to the Church as anywhere else and the Plenary Council process is providing a significant space for us to listen to the Spirit so that we perceive both the rough and the smooth – or, as we discussed in our parish gathering last week, the crack where the Light gets in. Then we may have a sense of how to ‘spread the Good News’ (as Paul say to the Philippians) in the worlds of today’s rich, powerful few and poor, oppressed many.
I still suspect that our Church in countries like Australia has ‘missed the mark’ of spreading the message about powerful, merciful Love because it has not admitted its own ‘valleys and hills’ where there is a lack of knowing Jesus and a surplus of consumerism, comfort and addiction. Human beings may have been acknowledging the forces of both life and death for at least eleven thousand years according to the archaeologists studying the temple site Gobekli Tepi in Turkey. They wonder why the hunter-gatherers of the region took the time to establish circles of stone pillars carved with animals such as snakes, spiders, boars, various birds and other game animals. Perhaps it was a place of ritualising death and of telling the stories of how to respect the forces of nature – an early form of ‘worship’ which is still evolving today. Some circles consist of twelve figures; there are images of sun and moon (maybe eclipse); and several depictions of bulls and horns (think Moses and Aaron at Mt Sinai).
This ancient site, older than that of any stone-age village, suggests that acknowledging and wondering about the powers of the Universe may have been significant factors in the development of complex societies. I wonder if that is true for us today and a challenge for religions to give living witness to the Creator and the inevitability of suffering and death leading to new life.
May each of us grow in knowledge and perception, wonder and awe, of the Mystery who speaks in the wilderness, inner and outer, about transformation, integrity and devotedness.
Reflection, 2 December 2018. (Advent Lk 21:25-28,34-36)
To all of us, the grace of expanding Love casting out our fears. Jesus tell us to stay awake and pray as we face life’s tribulations and wait for his ‘coming in a cloud with power and glory’ and the final transformation (and Resurrection). This ‘will come down on every person on Earth’ and I sense that it continues to be a reality for every individual in the history of the human race who faces moments of fear and of choosing ‘blessing or curse, life or death’. The priest in his homily spoke of different levels or scales coming through the readings: Cosmic, community and that of heart and mind. I think of climate change, politics, abuse and my own need for repentance, Mercy and faith. St Paul reminds me that what I need above all is for the Lord to increase my love of the Unseen, of my neighbour and of myself so that I can live with integrity according to my true nature.
I am intrigued that Jesus comes ‘in’ a cloud and I suspect that it is one of ‘unknowing’. I did not know what I was in for when I was asked, on Friday, to take Communion to a parishioner living in a home for the elderly – my first step into this form of service. I can only trust that the Spirit made the most of my little efforts with a reading and prayers in what was obviously a work of Christian mission. I joined other brothers at Treacy for ‘circles of empowerment’ and experienced similar feelings of excitement and peace when I was able to keep my focus on the Master and spoke of my efforts to keep him at the centre of my life. This was a moment of ‘standing erect with head held high’ while acknowledging that I shared others’ feelings of hesitation even as I believed that much is possible in our communities when all share a commitment to picking up our crosses and following the Way.
My sense is that Jesus keeps coming in all sorts of little ways during the time of waiting for ‘the day’ when the world – my little world – will come to an end and be transformed. Much that I take for granted – the ‘sun, moon and stars’ of my inner world – is already being shaken as I take new steps into mission and life and as I look to avoid ‘dying of fear’ through growing in love. I do rejoice that these are moments of ‘standing with confidence’ not only before the Son of Man but with and in him as his disciple, servant and friend.
I wonder how much I need to learn how to ‘wait’ within Jesus’ Realm where he is present, hidden in a cloud and already at work. This may be a new aspect of waiting with echoes of the time when humans learnt how to wait for seeds to produce a harvest of grain. I read a brief report about a sedentary camp of fisher hunter-gatherers on the shore of Lake Galilee where, 23 000 years ago, people were gathering and grinding cereal grains – possibly ten thousand years before any cultivation took place. I try to imagine the first person to realise that plants grow from seeds, that it may be possible to plant grains where it suited the village and then learning to wait as the early experiments bore fruit. Much happens unseen in the soil just as the Spirit works unseen in the hearts and minds of all of us and our communities to give life to new worlds according to the divine plan of creation.
May each of us be open to receiving new dimensions of Love with growing certainty that our Cosmic Christ is at the heart of every cloud which comes our way.
Reflection, 25 November 2018. (Christ the King)
To all of us, the Spirit of serving the living Truth in the Realm of the Cosmic Christ. When Jesus says that his kingdom is not the same as the one Pilate knows, that of Rome, I reflect that it is really the complete ‘upside-down’ where the Caesars of then and today are the last to suffer for the sake of the citizens while Jesus is the first, and where true power and glory are not in domination but in being servant. These ideas point to the deeper truth that Love is at the heart of the Universe and that we can see in Jesus’ self-emptying all the way to the cross what love looks like in the visible realms of creation. The ultimate ‘rule’ and command of the King is to follow this example which applies just as much in the invisible realms, especially that of Resurrection.
For these few weeks, there are only two of us at home and my companion is not feeling well with some sort of tummy virus. As a result, I found myself called to serve in extra ways as I fed parrots, magpies, gold fish, chooks and ourselves as well as helping to look after a group who spent Thursday with us and guiding our small ‘listening’ session for the Plenary Council 2020. This has highlighted aspects of my inner and unseen realm where there is my daily struggle to keep Jesus as Ruler in each present moment rather than my plans and dreams for the future near and far. His agenda included about 80mm of rain during the week, a power outage for most of a day and a couple of electrical short-circuits – many opportunities to give thanks and to remember that his rule has been full of grace, surprise and transformation for 13.8 billion years.
We had a baptism (an infant) during Mass and I listened for and heard the words of anointing which remind all of us that we share Jesus’s anointing as Priest, Prophet and King. I sense an enormous responsibility to be open to those ongoing ‘offices’ and I wonder what it is to share in ‘kingship’ over all ‘the kings of the earth’ as mentioned in the second reading. Part of it might be working, as many scientists are urging, to protect at least half of our Earth from exploitation as the best means of allowing nature to recover from the effects of our consumerism. Another part may be to face the greatest ‘enemy’, death, as a sharing in Jesus’ victory over the worst suffering that evil can produce. It is as though the greatest life-denying force brings out the greatest life-giving power which in turn calls for the highest praise and honour possible, even from those who share responsibility for the abuse and bloodshed.
Perhaps the greatest ‘glory’ we can give is in acknowledging the King’s presence in all the small and seemingly insignificant moments of life. It might involve a silent invocation, a breath of Ruah, a trust that every thought and action contributes to Life and a word of gratitude. It will be about conscious efforts to live according to our inherent true nature, made in the image and likeness of Creator and Cosmic Christ.
May each of us continue our search for the unique way in which we are called to serve in both the seen and unseen realms of Love’s creative flow.
Reflection, 18 Nov ’18. (Mk 13:24-32)
To all of us, the eyes which see the power and glory of Jesus in every time of distress. During the week I was reflecting on a reading which speaks of ‘one being taken and one being left’ and how that seems to be applicable, in bushfire situations, to people, homes and even small towns as has happened in America recently – one entity consumed in the flames and others almost untouched. Now I imagine that the same applies to species becoming extinct, to planets, stars and even galaxies – and how much it is a norm of Creation where the Cosmic Christ is always present and ruling as Lord. I am learning slowly to trust that Presence in my daily moments of distress such as the flat car battery and the broken down-pipe of this weekend.
A greater cause for unease for us at Glenburn is the growing likelihood of bushfires in south-east Australia over the coming summer. Rainfall is below average while temperatures are mostly higher than usual. I went along to an information session at our local rural fire-brigade and came away with a sense of just how dangerous even a grass-fire can be and how important it is to prepare and to be alert – to ‘stay awake’ as Jesus tells us because we don’t know when our next intense time of distress will occur. Part of that is to know possible safe places, ways to get there and the trigger-point for us to evacuate as the danger increases – to read the signs of that particular time.
I am beginning to reflect on the Plenary Council 2020 question about what we think God is asking of us in this country, Australia, and how much of a sign is the news, the forecasts and the stories of fires here and around the world. I think of our Indigenous people who have lived and thrived for thousands of years on this continent and who have using fire-stick farming for possibly the last ten thousand years of gradual climate warming. They have changed the landscape in favour of crops and pastures which have benefited their food supplies and which tend to be fire-tolerant. Fire has been a tool to be used wisely and with great respect, characteristics taught and learnt throughout their processes of life-long initiation, I suspect. Perhaps the Spirit is asking us to give witness to the potential blessings of fire, especially that which is in the eyes of Jesus as I read in Revelation 1:14.
Early Christians imagined that the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple gave witness to that nation’s failure to be light for the world and also gave impetus to the spread of the ‘good news’ of Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection. Perhaps God is asking us to tell the stories of fire as tool and as Divine compassion and to be the living Temple, the only place of true safety when the inevitable ‘times of distress’ do come whether they relate to personal failures or to global failures like abuses of our common home and our neighbours at all levels. I wonder if Australia can grow as a multi-cultural country characterised by the wisdom and respect of initiated adulthood and by the peace only Christ can give.
May each of us find Jesus at our side with his fiery eyes and a two-edged sword in his mouth whenever disaster threatens.
Reflection, 11 November 2018. (Mk 12:38-44)
To all of us, growing trust in the faithfulness of the One in whose image and likeness we are created. I read Jesus’ description of ‘scribes’ and wonder much it was and still is self-important and posturing people who bear responsibility for wars – with special remembrance of WW1 which ended 100 years ago today. My father’s elder brother died earlier in 1918 in a flying accident when training in the Flying Corps. Many families around the world have been affected down the generations and I wonder what Jesus imagines as a sentence for those responsible – then when the Romans crushed Jerusalem and throughout history – for wars and for the suffering of people like the widow in this story.
The so-called ‘self-sacrifice’ of war stands in stark contrast to the image in the Letter to the Hebrews of Jesus offering himself on the cross and in the real ‘sanctuary’ of the Realm of Mercy and vulnerability. He was completely faithful to his humanity and to its ‘likeness’ of the Faithful One he calls ‘Abba’ and who accepts his kind of giving on behalf of all. Jesus’ ‘reappearance’ holds echoes of the High Priest emerging out of the Holy-of-Holies and proclaiming both forgiveness and business-as-usual. Jesus is about a new way of living and celebrating ‘for those who wait for him’, including many victims of war, as death no longer has the last say. The widow who feeds Elijah and the one at the Temple treasury give witness to this belief at the heart of our spiritual DNA.
The topic in our parish group’s discussion on Wednesday evening was death and dying and I am wondering if God is asking us to keep up the conversations with Jesus’ death (and Resurrection) as the central issue ‘for the sake of our common home’. I thought of our daily ‘dyings’ as steps on the way from comfort to simplicity in the face of climate change and environmental degradation, situations which were quite possibly factors in our ancestors migrating out of Africa sixty thousand years ago. Now there is no other continent or planet to which we can migrate and it could be that our fellow humans still need to be reminded of the unseen dimensions of the Cosmic Christ and his Realm. I suspect that other aspects of our spiritual DNA include self-giving and the desire for new life and new worlds, a longing which can be negated by attitudes such as those of the scribes and Pharisees who focused on the perks and comforts of this world as do vast numbers of people today.
I had to smile during Mass when the word ‘peace’ was mentioned several times and reminded me of the song we had at the meeting, ‘People of Peace’, which gives me the sense of a peace which is strong and joyful, the result of putting others first and the flow of grace ‘in Christ’. I have had a taste of this in our little gatherings and I wonder how much Jesus felt this way as he watched the widow, possibly mixed with concern for his own destiny and for his people who refused his message and call for repentance.
May each of us turn more and more to the essence of our suffering and loving Cosmic Christ whose image and likeness we are called to incarnate for the sake of creation.
Reflection, 4 November 2018. (Mk 12:28-34)
To all of us, the words of Love’s commandment written on our hearts and taking us into Christ’s Realm. I suspect that the important step for the scribe who is ‘not far from the kingdom’ is to claim Jesus as Messiah and as fulfilment of Law, Temple and promise. This metanoia for him and for us involves all our heart, soul, mind and strength – and I seem to be called to make that effort every day in my daily living and learning. I think of a story I read during the week which finished with the wise, old desert father describing his last struggle as a fight with God and one which he hoped to lose. I am beginning to see how much I am resisting grace and new life even as I do take tentative steps in following the Master.
As I begin to think about my resistance to the Spirit, I suspect that it includes having my heart sometimes focused on my own security and comfort, my soul partly hidden in shadow and with marks of fear and resentment, my mind looking for grand thoughts and plans, and my strength being wasted on addictions and idleness. I do have to focus on Jesus’ kingly command ‘to love’ and I am beginning to see how much it is a daily choice of being open to Love’s flow, especially through my heart. Our visiting priest’s sermon was strong on loving oneself, on knowing and trusting Divine Love, and his story of ‘losing’ his childhood notions and becoming a priest after many years of ‘losing’ faith. I imagined him bringing shadow aspects of his ‘soul’ into the light as I continue to do and coming to a much more mature understanding in his mind of what his vocation entails. I am finding that then comes the physical activity of serving those whose journeys intersect with mine and allowing Mercy to heal my soul wounds as they are revealed in my ever-changing emotions.
I can easily think that progress is slow and then I read about possible ancestor groups which may have included Ardi (4.4 million years ago) and Lucy (3.2 million years ago) and which were evolving a skull that sat on the top of their upright stance and other features like knees and feet appropriate for bipedal movement. Their brains were less than half the size of ours so there was much to unfold in the future for their descendants. They were and are participants in the Cosmic Christ event and I wonder if they are ‘not far’ from Jesus’ Realm until the grace of his self-offering brings them from the shadows of history into the full light of creation. I sense that our journey today to being fully human involves this grace as well as all aspects of our bodies and spirits – as individuals and as families and other groups which pass on DNA, skills, learning and wisdom down the generations.
In our lively little parish group on Wednesday, it occurred to me that gatherings like these provide an environment of support and formation for us being the leaven or yeast in our society where individualism and loneliness seem to be causing illness, unrest and a lack of significant, common values – as though evolution has stalled. I rejoice and give thanks for those who do have the Divine command written on their hearts and who continue to search there for grace and the next step into Mystery.
May each of us respond with increasing joy, faith and love to the commands of our Master for the sake of life and our common home.
You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your understanding, and with all your strength.
(And this is the second one:) you shall love your neighbour as yourself.
Let compassion unfurl from your inner womb for Sacred Unity
in the form that impresses you most deeply, inside or out.
Send this love with and through your whole passionate self,
your whole awakening, subconscious self, your whole instinctive mind, and with all of your life energy. (30)
Give birth to love for the one “next door,” as you do for your own soul-self
and the part of it that feels like a neighbour.
Give birth to compassion for the nearest, yet unfamiliar, aspect of your self,
as you do for the one outside who feels like a stranger.
Give birth to the deepest warmth for the neighbour, inside and out,
as you do for your own subconscious community, inside and out. (31)
(The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus. Neil Douglas-Klotz p117-119)
Reflection, 28 October 2018. (Mk 10:46-52)
To all of us, the new sight which sees the presence and power of the Cosmic Christ. As I wonder about Bartimaeus going from sight to blindness and back to being able to see, I look back many years to my early images of a God who was ‘made’ in the likeness of my parents – a mixture of distance, strictness, suffering, caring, supporting, loving, sacrificing, and withholding personal intimacy. Then I sense that I turned away, lost sight of this ‘being’ and became something of a ‘blind beggar’ who wanted merely to live day by day through following rules, keeping quiet and in the background – all so that I would be given enough on which to survive. Then Jesus came along and I dared to ask for healing and I was blessed with mercy and insight so that now I try to follow him with peace and joy to ‘Jerusalem’ and beyond.
I am beginning to see, through gatherings of brothers and the Plenary Council 2020 process with parishioners, how I and my communities may be called to refresh our baptismal anointing into Jesus as priest, prophet and king. He stops his journey to encounter Bartimaeus and becomes the servant-king who commands his followers (Call him!), the priest who allows grace to flow (giving sight) and the prophet who teaches and gives witness to faith. Last Wednesday evening, our parish group reflected on what can happen in ‘small groups’ and included the possibility that this sort of ‘basic Christian community’ could gather to reflect on stories, personal and biblical, and to be a place of forgiveness, healing and discernment of the next step of our mission in Christ – a place of seeing where Jesus is walking today.
It seems possible that our hominin ancestors began walking on two legs rather than four about 6 or 7 million years ago in Africa. Climate change may have seen forested areas become grasslands and some primates with appropriate mutations found that their hands could be useful in new ways, including communication, child-care and carrying things for long distances, like food. The increased dangers of their new habitat encouraged cooperation, support for mates and young and closer bonds between family members. Jesus takes this pattern to a new level when he highlights how faith in him as ‘Son of David’ (and priest of the order of Melchizedek) is the way of carrying his cross in order to survive physical challenges and also to live in a Realm where food for the soul is always present and where death leads to Resurrection.
This story of Bartimaeus shows how ‘shouting’ and calling out Jesus’ name is one way of manifesting the faith which ‘saves’ and brings new life. I can imagine his followers gathering in circles, invoking him by name and answering his question about what we want him to do for us. Some of that will be about insights into living in the changing climate of this century and what new uses there will be for our hands, minds, hearts and wills as we ‘repent’ and face our role in losing sight of our mission ‘in Christ’ to take the Good News to all creation.
May each of us call out more and more loudly for ‘pity’ and for faith in his great love.
Reflection, 21 October 2018. (Mk 10:35-45)
To all of us, the blessings of the cup and baptism of Jesus. I read a comment about this Gospel reading which grabbed my attention and invited me to reflect on the nature of the ‘cup’ which seems to come from his Father, from the Source of Love, and how it could be that those of us ‘in Christ’ might still be accepting it with a mixture of willingness and great reluctance. I began to wonder if it could contain the ingredients of the fullness of Life which demands a self-emptying of everything from the fear of death to even the desire for living fully. Jesus says that it is about becoming servant and slave and I know how much I struggle to let go and allow that to happen.
I have been reading, too, about extinctions and how researchers describe five Great Extinction Events in the last 500 million years in which at least 75% of all species on Earth ‘disappeared’ – and how we are now in the sixth event as the rate of animal extinctions today is 100 to 1000 times higher than what would be expected in the natural course of evolution. A very significant factor in this ongoing diminution is the ‘global super-predator’, the human with growing overpopulation and over-consumption which affect the adults of species and even entire food webs. Then I wonder about Jesus who seems to have undergone his own form of ‘extinction’ and to be living the pattern where devastation makes space and opportunity for new life to evolve and flourish – the ultimate form of serving the Universe Being.
I wonder if Jesus’ baptism is an immersion into all the dynamics of Creation including supernovas, emergence and loss of species, mutations and transformations – and he invites us to ‘drink’ this all the way to Resurrection. I sense that our little group of parishioners who gather as part of the Plenary Council 2020 process is a taste of this immersion as we reflect together on issues like child abuse, our faith-life and that of children and grandchildren, prayer (last week’s main topic) and I wonder how much it might be about the extinction of the church as we know it. The Letter to the Hebrews reminds me that the ultimate dynamic is ‘the throne of grace’ and that we can approach this with confidence when we need help, which seems to be today’s situation considering the threats to life on Earth. The word is ‘we’ and I think of communities ‘in Christ’ – and how ‘small groups’ is our main topic for this week. Perhaps this is how we participate in Jesus’ giving of his life ‘as a ransom for many’ – for the life forms which still exist and those yet to emerge.
N.T. Wright in his commentary on the second reading reminds us that our high priest Son of Man is still a human being, one whose life has been completed. He knows temptation, anguish and faith in the power of Love. I believe that, in him, we do share in the cup of Mercy which empowers us to be servants and slaves as we learn the lessons of self-centredness and its consequences in abusing self, others and our common home.
May each of us continue to evolve our participation in the ‘cup’ and ‘baptism’ of the Cosmic Christ whose intimate presence is the true centre of our hearts, communities and all creation.
Reflection, 14 October 2018. (Mk 10:17-30)
To all of us, the treasure of receiving the Spirit of Wisdom. I thank Jesus for those moments when I trust the inner wealth of his Presence, guidance and grace as well as when I loosen my attachments to familiar and comfortable ways of thinking and acting. I found myself giving up my ‘valuable’ time when I helped set up a BBQ for a fund-raising bike-ride and walk which finished in Yea – as well as cook up trays of sausages and onions. This was followed by cleaning up, going home and cooking dinner for a group staying for the weekend – with more cleaning up. In all of it, there was a sense of sharing some of that inner wealth of peace and joy in the present moment – or perhaps it was being open to allow those blessings to flow in and through me.
I suspect that many people, like the ‘man of great wealth’ and even those ‘rich’ who focus on money and still have none, cannot imagine anything different like ‘treasure in heaven’ or Christ’s peace and joy in this life. Last Wednesday, I trust that some of this Kingdom wealth was flowing when I lead a small group of parishioners in a listening and dialogue session for the Plenary Council 2020 process. Sharing this kind of ‘daily bread’ seems to be a step-up from hamburgers, tea and sweet slices and something for which there is a deeper and more significant hunger reaching back to earlier stage of life’s journey. I was surprised and delighted at the decision to gather every week and at the prospect of others participating in these encounters with Mystery and Spirit.
I can imagine that this desire to feed both our bodies and souls has been evolving for over 160 million years – since our early mammalian ancestors gave birth to live young and nourished them with a degree of physical intimacy through to maturity. For at least the last few thousand years, we have been called to a spiritual maturity to which Jesus gives unique witness and which includes giving of self to the poor and following his presence. I read of the possibility that these early ancestors of ours lived for perhaps 100 million years as small, nocturnal predators, hiding in the dark from dinosaurs and other reptiles. They evolved with improved smell, sight and hearing and had an advantage with their young being born at a more advanced stage of life. Now we need to use our inner senses to thrive in Christ’s Realm and to teach our young to do the same. It could be that this life in the dark has switched off, in all placental mammals like us, the genes which enable almost every other living thing to repair damage caused by sunlight. This might explain my skin cancers as well as my ongoing need for forgiveness and inner healing from a Source greater than my own DNA.
Everything is possible for our Creator, from nurturing our ancestors through extinction events and out into daylight to welcoming our shadow-selves into the light of Christ. The rich man of the Gospel story seems to have experienced a compulsion to run to Jesus only to find that the fulfilment of his innate desire was a step into ‘unknowing’ and he was not ready for that – yet! Evolution takes time and I give thanks for every opportunity and grace to participate in the great unfolding of Life.
May each of us run in our own way to Jesus with prayers for evermore Wisdom and understanding of how valuable we are in the eyes of the One who loves us.
Reflection, 7 October 2018. (Mk 10:2-16)
To all of us, the vulnerability and openness of the little child who is brought to Jesus. During my retreat last week, I spoke with a spiritual director about my ongoing ‘bringing’ of shadow aspects of myself to my inner ‘round table’ where I imagine Jesus to be a central figure who provides healing for aspects like my wounded child and challenges to others like priest, prophet and king. I suspect that I have been rather ‘unteachable’ for much of my life – yet always with some degree of faithfulness and honesty which has grown in recent years. I have been taken to Jesus and his hugs and blessings and now I wonder how much I can be a conduit through which his teaching and Spirit can touch other ‘children’ as they welcome his Realm.
I have seen very little of married life and that has been from a distance so I can only surmise that it is the Spirit who keeps people true to their vows in marriage as happened in my experience of religious life. The second reading suggests that it is suffering which brings life to completion and wholeness and I look back and consider how I am still learning to trust that goodness can emerge through experiences of shame, fear and resentment when the Spirit flows as a ‘third force’ between me and the other. I am being taught to live in the present moment and within a set of boundaries built into creation.
On a walk in nature during the retreat, we were introduced to blue periwinkle (Vinca major), an introduced species which is aggressive and invasive and which is ‘taking control’ of much of the steep riverbank. It is diminishing bio-diversity and the overall health of the ecosystem. I sense that it is operating without the ‘boundaries’ which controlled it in its original habitat. I wonder about the times when I ignore boundaries like humility, honesty and meaningful, mutual relationships – the times when I seem to bring trouble and depression on myself. I give thanks for those occasions when the proper constraints allow the life of the Spirit to flow.
The periwinkle was just one of several unwelcome invaders we saw (like blackberry, capeweed and thistles) which have beautiful flowers and speak of the wonders of creation. It seems that the common ancestor of flowering plants evolved through and with a capacity for ‘genome doubling’ which provided many extra and novel genes. These offered opportunities for making flowers, stabilising physiology and responding to the environment and for a virtual ‘explosion’ of new species with parallel developments in species of pollinators, herbivores and more with new relationships and boundaries.
At one level, I see a kind of doubling of genomes when sperm meet ova which mirrors the coming together of different personalities and the richness of offspring and family life. I wonder about another level where the ultimate ‘doubling’ occurs when being baptised into Christ provides the opportunity for varieties of gifts and ministries and for the graces needed to flourish within the boundaries of Jesus’ commands and teachings like the Beatitudes.
May each of us welcome all with which our Creator blesses us on our Paschal journey all the way to Resurrection.
Reflection, 23 Sept 2018. (Mk 9:30-37)
To all of us, the welcoming of Jesus into his house and of the One who sends us out to serve the world. I can imagine the disciples, women and men, listening to Jesus as they walked through Galilee and not comprehending anything about a need to suffer and die, especially when so much healing and new life was happening in front of them. I can imagine them being afraid to question him as Peter had done and been told to ‘get behind’ and afraid of revealing their lack of learning and their low levels of discipleship. They wanted to bluster and portray themselves as ‘great’ and worthy of the best – as I do regularly. I am also learning that it is wonderful and enlivening to move close to Jesus, to ask questions and receive surprises, and to welcome the role of servant as it takes on forms old and new.
My own ‘serving’ in the last week has included a trip to the airport, welcoming some visitors who volunteered to help cut and split fire wood which then went into the woodshed, vacuuming the guest house, helping in the working bee at the parish house and selling a few more copies of Melbourne Catholic. I enjoy contributing to a bigger whole and doing so with a sense of the peace which James mentions in the second reading. I am learning how this peace seems to come when I put aside my own desires and make myself ‘last of all’ – which does take some effort. I am not always fully welcoming of these opportunities so I do appreciate the reminder that this is one situation where I am ‘in Christ’.
There was a time over 200 million years ago when even the dinosaurs were small and insignificant. Then a great extinction event occurred, wiping out about 80% of all species. The dinosaurs which survived were predators bearing significant features which enabled them to become the dominant land creatures for the next 135 million years or so. They could place their eggs in nests and incubate them and then feed and care for the young. They were in the early stages of being warm-blooded which allowed them to make better use of their legs being under their bodies for hunting speed. Their predators were mostly gone and the devastated environment provided plenty of opportunities to grow and evolve. Being small and agile was an advantage again for those avian dinosaurs (birds) who survived the next extinction event 65 million years ago.
As the synodal reflections and conversations continue around where the Spirit might be leading us now, I wonder if one of those ‘destinations’ is a smaller and more agile Body of Christ able to grow and evolve as the current extinction event gains momentum. Perhaps the blessings of this pattern are written in the Universe and the Cosmic Creator is teaching us what it looks like for human beings. I read that ‘rising on the third day’ originally referred to the Sun’s apparent standing still for three days at the winter solstice before beginning its rise towards the light and warmth of summer. This adds another dimension to us being chosen as ‘light to the nations’ and to living the Paschal Mystery with childlike trust and curiosity.
May each of us grow and evolve as servants of the Light shining within and around every being all the way to Resurrection.
Reflection, 16 September 2018. (Mk 8:27-35)
To all of us, ever deeper learning and understanding of what it means to follow the Son of Man. I can imagine Peter jumping to the conclusion that Jesus has got it wrong and quickly becoming the Satan – the Accuser – accusing him of being wrong. I hear a voice like that regularly, telling me that my hopes and dreams can’t work out because I am not good enough. This Gospel reading is teaching me to say, ‘Get behind me!’ and ‘Go to where you belong because you are only part of me and you do hold an element of truth!’ When the voice is in front of me, I can become disheartened and depressed; when it is behind me and Jesus is in front, I can grow in the faith which says that Great Love can flow through my human frailties.
I am learning, too, that these weaknesses are part of my ‘cross’ which also includes the good works which go with faith, as in the second reading. I wonder about the ‘good work’ of giving witness to Jesus, of speaking about him as the centre of my life and that of my communities. My olive-wood ‘holding cross’ reminds me that effort is required to keep some sort of balance in the unevenness of life – to keep going to the still point at the centre and to be aware of who or what I am following.
I suspect that much of the politics around the world involves citizens looking to put a ‘strong’ leader into power who will make life better and balanced in the face of deep uncertainties around climate change, wars and terrorism, food and shelter and even our place in the Universe. As in Australia, when the leader proves to be very human, they vote for someone else if they have the opportunity. Perhaps the real work and cross involves reminding people that the only constant is Sacred Presence and that it is the Creator, the Word of God, who has already revealed, and is still revealing, the way to peace and joy. This is one aspect of my intended input into the Plenary Council 2020 and the peace and joy I feel encouraged me that this is my ‘cross’ here and now for the sake of this country and the entire planet.
The first creatures to be fully adapted to life on land were small reptiles which evolved over 315 million years ago. Many of their physical characteristics were improvements on those of their amphibian ancestors and it was one new feature in particular which allowed them to roam far from the old securities of swamps and water courses – the hard-shelled egg. Their desire to procreate was no longer restricted to wet environments. My desire to participate in the Christ Event is becoming less restricted by my fears and is facilitated by ever-new surprises within a growing intimacy with Jesus, including interest from fellow parishioners at coffee etc. after Mass in joining conversations around the Plenary Council.
May each of us come to appreciate more and more the Mystery of our unique crosses and of following the fully alive Human One.
Mk 8: 35-36
(Whoever wants to save his life will lose it and whoever wants to lose his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.
What will it profit someone who gains the whole world and loses the soul?)
Everyone who desires to give energy
to his separate, subconscious self
will eventually find that self surrendered,
extinguished in the Only Self.
Everyone who surrenders her separate self,
the way I have done and hoped for,
will give energy to it.
For what advantage do you have
if your development in form
exceeds all the world can offer
but your soul remains incomplete?
(The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus Neil Douglas-Klotz p121)
Reflection, 9 September 2018. (Mk 7:31-37)
To all of us, open ears to hear the Word and loosened tongues to speak its stories. I look back and consider that Jesus has been ‘cleaning out’ my ears for at least thirty years and that now, finally, I am losing the impediments which restrict my speaking about him as Word, Cosmic Christ, friend, healer and much more. He has been making me whole through touch and the flow of Love when I have gone with him ‘in private’ – silence, scripture, nature – and I am beginning to see how much has happened. He seems to be encouraging me to tell my story, trusting that Mystery will flow even more for the deaf and speech-impaired whom I take to him.
On a couple of occasions in the last week, I have introduced others to the olive-wood ‘holding cross’ (made by Palestinian Christians) which I am using as a symbol and reminder for the centre-piece of circle conversations and of my own ‘heart circle’. I have been reporting on my recent experiences and reflections, especially the sense of Jesus’ cross, Resurrection and ‘dwelling’ at the centre of Christian living – and my suspicion that many of us have been ‘deaf’ and ‘speech-impaired’ for at least the last hundred years: we have taught and spoken of him from what we have read in books and not heard the Spirit-whispers in our hearts nor told the stories of the crosses we pick up, of sharing his yoke and burden, of encountering Mercy, joy and peace. My own story suggests that the consequences of this ‘missing the mark’ are abuse of all kinds and ultimately the decline of faith.
Over the past few years, others have cautioned me about speaking of Jesus because people ‘may not want to hear’ as the stories of sinful failure continue to emerge. I wonder how much this is fear and a result of not experiencing healing touch when so much ‘touching’ has been selfish and life-denying. I suspect that we need spaces where Jesus’ healing can flow to us through our shared wounds and vulnerabilities and that he is giving me the faith to participate in bringing about consequences which he has in store and I cannot imagine.
I wonder about the Creator’s imagining of consequences through the over 40 million years of ‘experimenting’ and mutations in the plant world which resulted in the first forests. With the ability to produce ‘wood’ and larger root systems, at least one variety of plant was able to grow to something like 10 meters tall, spread to every land, provide shade for the soil which it helped to produce with its falling leaves and branches and even bring about changes in the freshwater environment: slowing down currents and providing food which promoted fish life. This speaks to me of our deafness when it comes to the groaning of creation and to possibilities of healing flowing through those ‘in Christ’. There is much listening and responding still to do.
May each of us continue to go with Jesus away from the crowd where we evolve as instruments of the healing needed by the whole web of life.
Reflection, 2 September 2018. (Mk 7:1-8,14-15,21-23)
To all of us, the wisdom to grow in tune with the lore written deep in our being. I remembered a dream one night last week and wrote down what I could recall later that morning. As I have not remembered one for some time, I suspected that this one might hold various treasures and so I went back to it and had to laugh when I read, “I am on a mission to take over a rebel-held headquarters.” So I have rebels in my ‘head’ and I want freedom for my ‘heart’ – as Jesus mentions in the Gospel reading and I understand that the ‘hypocrites’ to whom he refers are people influenced by ‘rebels’ of their own.
These rebels, like mine, have their own fixed thoughts and behaviours in contrast to the notion of ‘creative fidelity’ to ‘a living tradition’ as I heard about in the BBI e-conference. My rebels seem to be telling me things of which I am not capable and so they need to be in control for comfort, safety and stability. The second reading reminds me that there is a word planted in me which I am to obey and that it will involve going out to help the defenceless and not being characterised by addictions and judgementalism. The rebels say ‘No!’ and Jesus says that grace will make it happen, including confronting these false voices.
One most significant ‘word’ was that which drew our tetrapod ancestors to venture from the water onto land. It may have been heard as a search for new food sources or to escape predators or climate change. It could happen because these creatures already had the beginnings of the necessary physical attributes such as bones in their fins (later to form arms and legs) and air-sacks (to evolve into lungs). Grace had already been at work and established unforeseen potential – and I wonder what lies hidden in me and my communities ready for use and evolution in the face of today’s crises. Perhaps the ancient Hebrew scriptures hold a clue when we are told that the Lord our God is close and waiting for us to call forth the Mystery of the whole ‘law’ written on our hearts.
I read that, at its best, this sacred ‘lore’ with its stories, customs and traditions is about how to grow as neighbours who are people of blessing in the image and likeness of Love. As I think of recent Australian politics, I wonder how much it has been about a search for comfort, consistency and security and looking at fellow human beings for answers when the only true ‘constant’ is the Creator of this expanding and evolving Universe. Perhaps our Christian task is to confront the ‘rebels’ with those aspects of Spirit which we have neglected and hidden with consequences unforeseen until now.
May each of us tune into and follow the unpredictable Spirit in whom we move and live and have our being.
Reflection, 26 August 2018. (Jn 6:60-69)
To all of us, living faith which chooses to follow Christ and be nourished by his body and blood. On Wednesday, I joined an interfaith group for an introduction to the Baha’i faith before going to visit a Vietnamese Buddhist temple. I can understand the attraction and the blessings of these religions through the efforts they make to serve the poor, to focus on youth, to sing and chant and especially through the joy and openness of the followers we met, most notably the Buddhist ‘abbot’ who showed us around with serenity, enthusiasm, jokes, laughter and smiles and made sure we were well fed with their vegetarian lunch.
These are people who are manifesting the goodness at the heart of creation and I can only wonder about different dimensions offered by the Son of Man who is also the Holy One of God and who invites us to chew on his own flesh as food for living in a Realm which is both seen and unseen. I appreciate the notion of following a human who is also Cosmic Christ and whose presence is one of intimacy, meekness and love – for the Universe. I wonder if many of those who left him did so because of the challenge to share this way of living with its call to a radical transformation of heart and mind – as though he was too close and also too immense.
I wonder, too, about Australian politics at the moment when so many who call themselves ‘Christian’ seem to be living out of fear and self-interest with no willingness to face the harsh realities of human nature and of ‘mother nature’. I wonder if they have ‘stopped following’ as many in different churches have done in the face of seemingly insurmountable threats from climate change, globalisation, terrorism, refugee crises and abuse of all sorts. Several commentators suggest that there is no enunciated vision of any way forward and I wonder if our religious communities have lost their voice because they have lost sight of ‘the Son of Man ascending’ and lost touch with the Spirit who is in Jesus’ words – that same Spirit who is moving us into synodality.
I went along to the final session of the short course about the Plenary Council 2020 on Wednesday and enjoyed the opportunity to share stories in a small group of three. I heard stories of healing and of hurt and frustration and, in the centre of our little circle, I placed a wooded cross and a small Earth-globe. I spoke of experiencing Mercy and of wanting to keep focus on the Cosmic Christ in my worlds both inner and outer. I suspect that those of us ‘in Christ’ do point to a way ahead in which each step will be revealed in its own time and involves listening and following with deepening faith. I, too, sense fear in these dark days – fear of loss and suffering and of picking up my cross. I also sense my hope in an immense and powerful Presence.
Insects have been busy on our planet for something like 480 million years and have survived and evolved through many mass-extinction events. They speak of interdependence, especially with the plant world and our food sources, of uncounted variety and of social cohesion, diligent farming, ‘singing’ and beauty. They evolved as they sought nourishment in the unfolding environments of dry land.
May we and our communities grow as we participate in the great flow of sustenance which is the body and blood of our Cosmic and Holy One.
Reflection, 19 August 2018. (Jn 6:51-58)
To all of us, growing participation in Jesus’ life of passion and fire for our world. I find hope in the words of the second reading which say that I and my communities are redeeming ‘a wicked age’ by lives of praise and thanksgiving. The lecturers on Wednesday night at the ACU short course were hinting at the same notion when they outlined the results of research which indicates that institutions such as ‘catholic education’ have failed to facilitate experiences of encounter and community for at least the past fifty years. That sense has been growing in me for some time as has the conclusion that it is time to listen to the Spirit for guidance in what it means to nourish ourselves in new ways through Jesus’ flesh and blood and to be explicit in our gratitude and humility.
Wednesday was a day of blessing for me when the afterschool homework club session was cancelled and I took the opportunity to see the movie ‘Gurrumul’ who was recognised as someone who was singing from his deep, true self with its connections to land, living things and family. Again I was one of those who have been moved deeply at the sound of his voice and his Indigenous tongue with echoes of creation’s groaning and celebration. He was one of those wonderful artists who begin their careers as young people playing music and singing in their local Christian church and who go on to participate in redeeming the world through their gifts. Afterwards I was able to attend Mass for the feast of the Assumption at ACU before the lecture. It was as though the Spirit had a plan for me and all I had to do was cooperate with a sense of wonder and thanksgiving. I suspect that it has been a lesson about trusting Mystery.
I am encouraged when Paul speaks of singing and chanting in his letter to the Ephesians as though song is a key ingredient in transforming hearts and minds. Infrequently I enjoy listening to and singing along with tunes in my ‘religious’ collection and sense that it is a missing element in many gatherings where we could be listening to the Spirit for inspiration. The deep truths of the music and lyrics can take their time in enlivening our true selves, following the patterns of creation like the transformation, over something like four hundred million years, of Earth’s bare rocky surface to the forests, grasslands and wetlands of today. Perhaps we need the beauty of both nature and music if we are to be Christ’s bread for the life of the world.
Perhaps, too, we can appreciate the Paschal Mystery as we learn more of the origins of plants and their role in transforming our planet even by their very significant contributions to mass extinctions by stimulating ice ages and snowball-Earth conditions. They have changed the chemical compositions of rocks, oceans and atmosphere – and the dance of the Spirit has brought about new life, great variety and eventually consciousness through apparent disasters. I have hope that our eating of the ‘fruit of the Earth’ is a participation in Life which is both now and forever.
May each of us grow and evolve in the unfolding and intimate compassion of the Cosmic Christ.
Reflection, 12 August 2018. (Jn 6:41-51)
To all of us, the life we receive when we munch on Jesus’ flesh. Life seems to have existed on Earth for about four billion years and only made the very significant step from the waters and oceans out onto dry land less than 450 million years ago. I can imagine this to be like a grand, ongoing adventure which began with microscopic, root-like filaments which could extract nutrients from the rocks and rubble of tectonic shifts, weathering and erosion, and so begin the process of forming the soils which have supported living things from then until now. Two thousand years ago, another step, another Passover, begins with Jesus offering ‘eternal life’ – Life in the unseen Realm of Sacred Unity.
Early life on land evolved in a very different environment featuring desiccation, gravity, UV light and limited nutrients. Jesus faces a world of false certainties, complaints, threats and violence and he offers his own ‘flesh’ as the abundant nourishment of his Other-centred world. Researchers today can look back through the fossils which have preserved the mat-like colonies of those first entities on land and begin to surmise their story of mutations, survival together and their lasting blessing for our planet. I can imagine the Creator ‘teaching’ and preparing them in the depths of their DNA to fulfil their destiny which includes Jesus and us. Now we ‘in Christ’ are being taught about an even deeper ‘DNA’ which is about ‘the life of the world’ all the way to resurrection. We do need to munch and chew on his ‘bread’ at many levels.
I experienced different tastes of this ‘chomping’ during last week with much more to come as we move through the processes of the Plenary Council and our congregational chapter. I went along to ACU for one presentation, viewed others from the BBI e-conference and took part in a gathering of brothers which included conversation circles. It occurs to me that Paul’s words to the Ephesians in the second reading contain the essence of both these conversations and the lifestyle of Jesus’ Realm. One of the lecturers spoke of how Pope Francis seems to be offering ‘synodality’ to the world as best practice of democracy at a time when our physical and social environments require new ways of being together in our common home. I am excited at the prospect of being one tiny filament of evolving consciousness as my communities face huge difficulties while feeding on living bread and participating in Great Spirit.
Another lecturer spoke of keeping ourselves in a ‘living’ tradition of handing on and building on the lessons of the past and he indicated that, in essence, we are ‘handing on God!’ – a Presence who is creative, dynamic, loving, rejoicing, personal, intimate and beyond our imagining.
May each of us grow and evolve into that Presence through the delights of feasting on Jesus’ corpse.
Reflection, 5 August 2018. (Jn 6:24-35)
To all of us, full participation in the faith-filled work of believing in Jesus, ‘bread of life’. My growing belief that he is ‘feeding’ and even sending me has brought me to Sunshine in the past week with a few days at Glenburn and an evening lecture at ACU about the Plenary Council 2020. I seem to be in a process of revisiting the past and imagining the future, all with new eyes and desire to serve. There are ‘signs’ to read and I am finding an inner sense of ‘rightness’ telling me that I am seeing something of their deeper meanings and that the true worker is the Spirit.
Much of that sense of being on the right path seems to be coming in situations where others offer very similar insights and stories. It happened at the community prayer for the commemoration of Ignatius of Loyola and in another conversation at Glenburn about circles. I have been reminded of the challenges of climate change through views from aeroplanes of our brown country and half-filled dams as well as through news stories of heat waves, fires, droughts and floods in the northern hemisphere. Jesus is still calling me to ‘come’ and ‘believe’ in the ‘I Am’ who gives life to the world and satisfies hunger and thirst at all levels, inner and outer, land and life-form.
My little twinges of back-pain remind me of my vulnerability and of the ease with which it seems possible to try satisfying hunger with false bread. I read that our backbones began evolving over 525 million years ago, possibly in one common ancestor, something like a sea-urchin, who passed on the necessary genes to various lines of descendants. Some of these seem to have lost this feature and followed different paths all the way to the present; they found the best way to thrive in the present moment. Some took advantage of it and it has been passed on to us humans with our ability to engage even in ‘spiritual revolution’ with courage and awareness. We can choose to make sacrifices with a view to things unseen and we can choose survival for ourselves within limited horizons. I can only give thanks to the One who gives me ‘true bread from heaven’ and asks me to participate in its giving and receiving. I can take Jesus as a model of how to invite others to the deeper meanings of the signs all around us.
One notion from the lecture session at ACU which stay with me is that we are baptised into the ‘offices’ of priest, prophet and king – and I wonder if we can ‘lose’ this feature with its ‘genes’ being dormant and ripe for reactivation. We will need ‘true bread’ to live these archetypes as essential aspects of our ‘new selves’ in both their individual and communal manifestations and to awaken them in others.
May each of us accept Jesus’ daily invitations to come and be transformed into bread for our common home.
Reflection 29 July 2018. (Jn 6:1-15)
To all of us, evolving faith in the One who sees all our needs. I have just finished a 5-day ‘practicum’ in which I enjoyed, with a dozen others, seeking to see how to improve and deepen our practice of ‘circle conversations’. I can sense that it is, at least partially, learning to see as Jesus sees when he observes the crowds, his disciples and then those who seem to see him as a source of instant gratification in their desires for freedom and domination. He knows what is best for all beings and the ways for all to be fully alive. He sees the Divine embrace and plan in which each of us takes responsibility for our lives together – and ‘the circle way’ is one manifestation of how it is being realised.
In the last few days, we read and heard stories of church groups and congregations encountering ‘Spirit’ in ways they had not experienced before and I imagined that we Christians have largely lost our connection to this Power who has ‘moved on’ to nourish restless seekers with ways and insights which are both old and new. I went along keeping both our recent history of abuse and also future events like the Plenary Council and congregational chapters in mind and come away with a growing sense that I have a role to play in our metanoia which looks back to Gospel lessons such as this one. Here, people like Philip and Andrew see with compassion, go to Jesus with their ‘unknowing’ and in expectation of grace, do what he asks without any answers and find themselves surprised and in awe. I was the only practising Christian in the group while all of us felt echoes of the nourishment and wonder of those early followers as the pattern unfolded for us in The Big House.
It seems as though eyes began to evolve perhaps 550 million years ago when all life on Earth was still in the oceans and waterways of the planet and that each step along the way was marked by a mutation which increased the prospects of survival whether predator or prey. I ask myself about the advantages of seeing with Jesus’ eyes and insight and I suspect that it is all about staying aware of Love’s presence and power to transform. Seeing was a factor in the transition from water to land and remains a factor in building the Creator’s Realm of surprises seen and unseen. Jesus is still teaching by involving his disciples in his mission and this, too, was significant in our circle activities as we came to see what is possible for ourselves, our conversations and our common home. It is still Passover time with its call to see and follow YHWH’s Way to freedom.
One of my learnings relates to the significance of the stated intention which brings people together and I wonder about ways to keep Jesus and his intentions at the centre of circle conversations. Those of us who claim to be ‘in Christ’ may need to see ourselves as instruments with limited understanding and with the responsibility of checking in with him at every step of the way.
May each of us come to see more deeply what it means to call him Lord and friend and to expect surprise and abundance through our obedience.
Reflection, 22 July 2018. (Mk 6:30-34)
To all of us, the peace of learning what the Cosmic Christ teaches. I can imagine those apostles learning from Jesus and rejoicing that they could successfully put into practice what they had learnt. I can imagine them needing to learn more about caring for themselves in terms of food, rest and prayer – and about the size of the task ahead in terms of people’s deep longing for wholeness, healing and belonging. I can imagine Jesus’ compassion for the crowd who were ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ and teaching them about the love of ‘The-Lord-our-integrity’ who knows both their physical and spiritual hungers, who is listening to their petitions and who longs for them to put this Divine Shepherd at the centre of their lives.
Over the past couple of weeks, I have been revisiting places where I taught (last century) and seeing big differences in many areas from buildings to curricula and student support. One common theme seems to be the growing lack of faith in the lives of staff and students and I can see how I may have been involved in this decline as I attempted to pass on knowledge rather than belief. I am now still learning to keep ‘Spirit’ as the prime mover of Life and am finding greater joy and peace as I give thanks to Jesus for all the blessings which have come in the form of conversations, insights, welcomes and more. I look back and suspect that the surprises flow more as I continue to mention the Spirit and to say thanks. Perhaps this is one way in which the Master is teaching me about his Realm and his command to tell the Good News to all creation.
Researchers theorise that all life forms have a ‘selfish desire’ to pass on their DNA and that sexual reproduction was a new way of doing so which began perhaps 2 billion years ago. It is possible that evolving eukaryotes were able to choose this way in times of stress so that there was a greater likelihood of at least some of their DNA surviving. This seems to me to be another pattern deep in our physical being which manifests in scenes such as this one where Jesus is passing on the essentials of his spiritual DNA to those who choose to approach and relate with him, becoming part of the ‘New Man’ whom Paul describes to the Ephesians. Passing on faith may be a manifestation of the ‘selfishness’ of all who are ‘in Christ’ and focused on his way of self-giving Love.
The past few weeks have been busy and I appreciate more the moments of rest and nourishment provided by the Spirit through the people and timetables of the travelling. May each of us grow in openness to Jesus’ teachings as they emerge in different forms bringing peace to every moment of Presence.
Reflection, 8 July 2018. (Mk 6:1-6)
To all of us, the grace to boast of those weaknesses through which the Spirit of prophecy calls us back to Sacred Promise. I thank Pope Francis for reminding me of the notion of ‘promise’ and I wonder about its inherent nature in creation, especially in living creatures. I imagine that the Divine DNA has been fulfilling a promise of ‘life to the full’ for at least 13.8 billion years of evolution and I hold on to that with a mixture of faith, hope and doubt. I spent most of today in conversation with a family friend who concerned about the future for her children, grand-children and great-grand-children in these times when individualism is becoming more dominant and the sense of ‘faith-community’ is diminishing and even disappearing – and I considered that prophecy is one vital element missing from our Church.
Life seems to have existed on Earth for at least 4 billion years and for half of that time it has consisted of single-celled bacteria. Then there occurred a vital breakthrough – the cell nucleus came into being and evolution could proceed at a much faster rate. A significant feature of the nucleus is its membrane which isolates the DNA which can go about its business with fewer concerns. The membrane includes pores which allow certain molecules to pass through to develop and keep safe that part, the DNA, which contains the cell’s memories of the past as well as its promise for the future. The diversity of evolution happens through successful mutations being passed on. I wonder how much prophecy is like the nucleus of our Church which can be healthy and varied when the flow of new and different gifts is maintained via a membrane (cf. ‘brain’) which is flexible and alert, not limited by adherence to rules and expectations (cf. clericalism). Perhaps this is another pattern written deep in the spiritual and biological dimensions of our beings.
As I wonder about how this applies to me, I can look back and consider that my ‘membrane’ is slowly becoming more porous and letting in the life and love of the Creator so that I can move beyond my self-imposed ‘rules’ about who I am and what I am capable of, including the idea that I could never be any sort of prophet. I look back and see that it has been within ‘healing communities’ that I have acknowledged my ‘weaknesses’, have been accepted as a flawed human being and have experienced Mercy. I dare to believe that the Spirit is drawing me into community that is both healing and prophetic even as I long to be alive in Christ and dread the hardships and agonies that seem to a sign of its reality.
May each of us grow in the faith which allows the power of the crucified and resurrected Human One to flow with healing in and through our weaknesses.
Reflection, 24 June 2018. (Birth of John the Baptist)
To all of us, growing faith in the presence of the hand of the Lord guiding us to freedom. I seem to be in the middle of an experience of being ‘guided’ which is building on many other Spirit-encounters over many years. This one began at the start of this year when I considered my option to celebrate my ‘jubilee’ with a trip or programme and all I could think of was to pray to the Spirit to find something which would be worthwhile for me and my communities – a prayer which I now imagine to be Spirit-inspired. A couple of months ago, there was a group who use ‘The Circle Way’ staying here for a weekend and, when I showed some interest because we brothers have been using the same process, they told me about workshops happening in July. I am now booked in to one of them.
I find myself sharing in the excitement and joy of Elizabeth and her neighbours as I wonder, ‘What will this turn out to be?’ and in that of Zechariah as he praises God with his new-found speech. Our parish priest talked in his sermon about John’s birth being celebrated at the summer solstice (northern hemisphere) with the notion that ‘he must decrease’ – as the daylight hours begin to shorten – and Jesus must increase (presumably from the northern winter solstice). As the days here begin to lengthen after last week’s solstice, I have a sense of an increase in that deeper peace and joy as I look ahead to conversations in ‘circles’ about the Spirit’s guidance among us brothers as well as among parishioners and the Plenary Council. There seems to be an increase in light and lightness of heart even as the darkness of the world’s wildernesses persists.
One form of wilderness developed 2 to 3 billion years ago as oxygen levels increased in Earth’s atmosphere due to the spread of photosynthesis. This brought about conditions which threatened life on the planet which began to ‘burn up’ with the toxic gas. Eventually, some mutations gave rise to lifeforms which were able to make good use of this fuel (and we seem to have their descendants as the mitochondria in our cells). According to some scientists, it is possible that the genes for using oxygen in this way may have been passed horizontally between single-celled organisms as well as down the generations. This makes sense to me as a foundational pattern which occurs amongst us humans as we spread information, understandings and especially faith in the Creator both in our families and in gatherings of peers. Perhaps this is connected to my interest in circles with their promise and possibility for the Spirit’s guidance through today’s crises.
May each of us grow in openness to the spirit of John the Baptist challenging us and our communities to centre our lives on the creative love of the Cosmic Christ.
Reflection, 17 June 2018. (Mk 4:26-34)
To all of us, the right conditions for our sacred seeds to come to a generous harvest. Winter rain was falling when we arrived in Yea for Mass and the farmers and gardeners were rejoicing after one of the driest autumns on record. We have learnt much about how it happens that plants sprout and produce our food and people have known for thousands of years that seeds in the ground are not enough – sun and water are needed. This is like a ‘third force’ from the ‘heavens’, essential in the process.
As parish treasurer, I wanted sell the remaining copies of Melbourne Catholic and so I spoke at the end of Mass. As fellow parishioner, I mentioned some very worthwhile articles and also how the reading of these was one way of ‘watering’ the seeds already planted in our minds and hearts and I mentioned that, while our parish may not be growing in numbers, this is about all of us growing in faith as well as contributing to reflections in preparation for the Plenary Council 2020. I was grateful that most of the copies were bought and for the affirming comments made by a few others. Now I can only wonder what kind of small, humble beginning this might be for me and the parish and that I am called to be ready for each new and surprising step along this way.
This does seem to be a good day to reflect on photosynthesis with descriptions like ‘the only significant solar energy storage process on Earth’ as well as ‘the source of all our food and most of our energy resources’ and its ongoing production of the oxygen we breathe. Scientists continue to research and theorise about its origins and I can only marvel at how the evolution of life depends on this process which may have begun about 3.6 billion years ago with mutations in some early bacteria living in the oceans. The ‘third force’ again is the energy of the Sun which enables water molecules to be split, releasing the oxygen as well as electrons and protons – turning sunlight into sugars.
If the Reign of Empowerment is like this, then Jesus’ images point to a reality of unforeseen blessings in the Creator’s Realm where the Spirit continues to act as ‘third force’ in the lives of individuals and of communities. It is happening in me as my fears meet my longing for life and then in the parish where my growing sense of healing and peace meets others’ desire for nourishing community. I imagine that there were many ‘experiments’ among the early forms of life which did not include all the ingredients for the revolutionary step of photosynthesis and yet it happened and probably more than once. It was inevitable somewhere in the Universe just as the harvest and the mustard shrub’s shelter are inevitable in the body of the Cosmic Christ. I rejoice in the gift of faith which enables me to participate in the process in some small and humbling ways.
May each of us grow more and more open to ‘third force’ finding the right conditions in our hearts and minds and in our communities.
Reflection, 10 June 2018. (Mk 3:20-35)
To all of us, growing gratitude for the blessings of being at home in Jesus’ family-of-the-Father’s-will. Recently, I have been expressing my interest in Australian Church’s Plenary Council 2020 and receiving positive responses from some brothers and some Yea parishioners. As I think about the focus question presented for discussion before next Pentecost – “What do you think God is asking of us in Australia at this time?” – I suspect that it is calling us to a renewed sense of this ‘family’ with all its variety and gifts and especially in its fundamental nature as those who ‘listen to what the Spirit is saying’. Today’s Gospel is very strong on forgiveness and on the issue of refusing to acknowledge Jesus’ calls to metanoia and to the faith which Paul mentions in the second reading. Perhaps one of the characteristics of family will be faith-speaking both to each other and to Sacred Mystery.
I suspect, too, that another aspect of the answer will refer to our climate and to the loss of habitat and biodiversity happening every day. Perhaps some of our conversations will be about our common shame and ‘nakedness’ as we hide from the Creator who asks where we are when it comes to caring for ‘our common home’ and to turning away from our lives of comfort, denial, waste and consumerism. We might see that we continue to say ‘yes’ to the tempter rather than to the Spirit of self-sacrificing love who asks that we examine our own motives and actions rather than blame others. This is where I begin to think that I may be ‘out of my mind’ and completely missing the mark until I remember the blessings I have received even this week and the Power available in the unknowing and obedience of Jesus’ followers.
On Thursday, I attended the funeral of a brother who was described as making his own very appropriate decisions regarding letting go of youth, vitality and generous retirement as he approached the decay of his outer form. I began to wonder about the possibility of making those decisions much earlier in life and being open to the spontaneous following of unseen new directions. After succumbing to the temptations of party pies and chocolate cake at the wake, I followed an inspiration to go with another brother to visit the new homework-help program at Tarneit in Melbourne’s south-west. I give thanks for the sense of joy which came from my spontaneity, from a brief time of helping with setting up and with tutoring two young students and from a pleasant and swift train ride back to the city. This was a small taste of what the spirit of faith can bring.
I wonder how much it will be willingness to follow Jesus into the unknown, into what might seem ‘crazy’ words and actions, that will be needed to see us through the crises unfolding around the planet at this time. We may need to tell more stories of the Spirit’s creative power such as that of meteors entering Earth’s early atmosphere and their components, especially iron, being vaporised. The resulting ‘iron rain’ caused greenish-blue oceans and higher concentrations of significant metals on the surface which our species has been able to use in an enormous number of ways after over 4 billion years of evolutionary time. We may need to grow in humble acknowledgement of a very different time-scale where each of us has the opportunity to make a significant contribution.
May each of us grow in heeding what is asked of us here-and-now and in appreciating the flow of creativity in and around our cosmic family.
Reflection, 3 June 2018. (Corpus Christi)
To all of us, the ‘new wine’ and ‘new covenant’ uniting us in Resurrection Life. I found myself for the second Sunday in a row at a First Communion celebration – same Church, similar overflowing crowd, different atmosphere, and being distracted by a young girl two seats in front of me who was having nose bleeds. As I wonder what extra the Spirit is offering for my reflection on the ‘body and blood’ of the Christ, I think of that child and her family who seemed to be well acquainted with the situation –no fuss, no bother, part of life. The priest, in his summary of the whole occasion, mentioned the gift of Eucharist and ‘not taking it for granted’ and I think: no fuss or bother, make the flow of ‘blood’ a vital part of joyful living and giving within Jesus’ family and use every opportunity to receive his ‘new wine’ with consciousness.
I was wondering, too, how meaningful it is for these children and all in that church to receive the bread/’body’ and not the wine/’body’ and also what it meant to the man next to me who wanted to receive from the priest, not a lay minister. I sense an invitation for me to become more conscious of the sacrificial and covenantal aspects of the sacrament and to appreciate that my involvement in its new life depends on my ‘yes’ to evolving and new challenges in my relationship with the Christ. As I think of my being drawn into the searching of my congregation for renewal of religious life and of the Church with the Plenary Council 2020, I have remembered a description of life as ‘a tandem bike ride with the Divine’ in which Jesus takes the front position, tells me to keep pedalling and off we go on an exciting adventure of receiving and giving-away gifts and graces of all kinds. A few short conversations in Melbourne and in Yea tell me that momentum is building and that I am part of a much larger movement of the Spirit.
I wonder about the life that has emerged on this planet which has its own sense of ‘body’ and ‘life blood’ in its rocks and flows of water. Scientists theorise about the source of the oceans and some agree that most of the water was released from the materials which came together around 4.6 billion years ago in the formation of Earth. This water is still being thrown up into the atmosphere in the volcanoes active today and is part of an ancient and ongoing cycle which has produced the right amount of the liquid to cover 71% of the surface and leave something for new forms of life to flourish ‘on dry land’ once the temperature was right for condensation. The gift was inherent in the star dust and is unfolding according to ‘the commands and ordinances’ of the Universe Being. Jesus reveals the pattern and takes it to a new level where his Spirit is ‘poured out’ of his incarnated reality in vast amounts for the newness of Resurrection in which we have the choice of participating. It has always been a dramatic and surprising ride and one which is written into the DNA of our bodies, minds and hearts.
May each of us take for granted that eating and drinking the body and life-blood of the Cosmic Christ means that we are open to the ways of Mystery and Love transforming chaos into order and form.
Reflection, 27 May 2018. (Trinity)
To all of us, the joy-filled life of Trinitarian Love flowing in and beyond our Universe. I am staying in Melbourne for a few days and have just experienced Sunday evening Eucharist in an overflowing church celebrating First Communion. My plan had been to attend the 9.00 Mass and I found that the Spirit had other ideas such as spending almost ten minutes finding somewhere to park, coming in late and still finding a seat and then being touched when the children stood up and could not be seen next to their sitting parents and families. I had suspected that the Spirit may have something special for me and I was ‘thinking’ that it may be some insight for my reflection. Now I can look back and give thanks for the sense of excitement shared by so many and for the feelings of joy and wonder which touched me then and stay with me now as I ponder the mysterious ways of the Trinity in blessing these children with parents, families, teachers and Jesus’ living Body. Something like that happened to me many years ago and the process continues to evolve.
St Paul reminds us that this Earthly Life includes both delight and suffering and I can only wonder what challenges these children and their families will face and how Jesus will ‘be with them’ as the institutional church struggles to live out the command to ‘make disciples’ and to ‘baptise’ in the name of the Trinity. He has been with me in situations both within and outside of organised religion and I have needed both to encounter ongoing Mercy and healing at the levels of head and heart. I am still learning to cry out, “Abba!” and to trust in that Love. I am learning to see “Father!” in the incarnated and crucified Son. I am beginning to learn that the Spirit is indeed at the heart of every aspect of our evolving worlds. I pray that all of us grow to be more open to the new and surprising ways in which the Trinity continues to reign ‘in heaven above as on Earth beneath’.
One of the signs in the sky is the relationship between our planet and its moon which overflows into impacting on our web of life. With a moon of the appropriate size and orbit, Earth’s axis has a small wobble which has kept the climate within the bounds of supporting life, even with a 41,000 year cycle of hot followed by icy conditions. The moon’s gravitational pull has slowed Earth’s rotation to a speed which fosters life as we orbit in the Goldilocks Zone. One form of that life marvels at the mystery of this object in the heavens, asks questions, finds answers, writes poetry, sings songs and dreams of using it as a stepping stone for exploring the immensity of creation. Perhaps all of us, young and old, can keep in mind that we have been formed in the image and likeness of this Creator who is ‘with us’ in a host of mysterious ways.
We exist in this place because of ‘heavenly’ factors and Earthly factors which include a molten core generating a magnetic field, a variety of surfaces, and an ozone layer. I see myself as a multi-layered being dependent on inner and outer phenomena which are physical, emotional and spiritual. As a reflection of the Source, I can be creative, relational, intimate and nurturing as is the One whose ‘laws and commands’ are written in all structures from atoms to galaxies and who calls for loving discipleship. Perhaps the greatest challenge is to see all that is being created as ‘very good’ and to rejoice in the great unfolding.
May each of us grow as a loved and loving child participating in the flow of universal joy.
Reflection, 20 May 2018. (Pentecost)
To all of us, the noisy sound of the Spirit breathing us as we live and proclaim the marvels of Love. Pentecost speaks to me of ‘first fruits’ and the human endeavours of preparing soil, planting, harvesting and giving thanks for the cycle which results in our staple foods. There is our community at work participating in the mysterious processes of our Spirit feeding our bodies, minds and hearts – placing the fire of the heavens into our being. There is the echo of the Genesis story of the Creator breathing into clay forms and awakening consciousness as Jesus breathes on the mystified few whom he calls friends and empowers them as the ‘first fruits’ of a new fire of self-giving, merciful Love which is our deepest nourishment.
I felt a touch of this fire on Friday when I attended a gathering of brothers to hear and to talk about our recent three-day gathering and where the Spirit seems to be moving in the Edmund Rice Movement. This time I did take the microphone and told of my delight that there are people who do speak of Jesus and his power at work in our midst as well as of my question, “What does it mean for me and my communities to call ourselves Christian?” My nervousness crept into my voice and I had a sense of being unworthy of any task from the Master and yet I was aware of a deeper peace that I was being true to a higher purpose in the mysterious ways of Love.
I give thanks, too, for a further understanding of the source of my resentment and shame. This came as I was reflecting on the scene where Jesus asks Peter three times about his love and each time accepts his answer and gives him the task of nourishing the flock. Peter is invited to return to his moments of shame and unworthiness and to see that they are part of the foundation of his new life. So too for me as I opened up aspects of my relationship with my father to Jesus’ peace and found that I have a task in Christ and his Spirit. Each step along this way (usually to where I would rather not go) seems to require stronger faith and deeper listening in prayer even as the joy takes a more secure hold. It does become much more about Love flowing in, with and through me.
There seems to be an inevitability about this grand flow towards Life which is highlighted for me in the image of a supernova with its ‘fire’ and energy, especially the one whose shock waves may have triggered the collapse of a vast cloud of gas and dusk about 4.6 billion years ago resulting in the birth of thousands of stars, including our Sun. Some astronomers theorise that it may have been a relatively small star, perhaps ten times bigger than our own, which exploded and helped create the conditions for the life which flowers in us. Within a hundred million years, there was the ‘dance’ of our solar system with a variety of planets settling from wild and eccentric orbits into a relative calmness also conducive to the enhancement and protection of an evolving web of life. Each set of conditions throughout the expanding Universe is unique as is the story of each of us. I can only pray that I can continue to participate in this immense enterprise in my own special way.
May each of us heed more and more deeply the Advocate breathing in us the complete truth of Mercy and peace.
Reflection, 13 May 2018. (The Ascension)
To all of us, the power in the Holy Spirit to be Resurrection witnesses. As I reflect on the last week, I do not see any powerful witnessing on my part to Jesus’ presence and then I begin to wonder how much happened on those occasions when I thought myself to be weak and useless. These moments included smiles, thanks, listening, sitting with as well as selecting songs for Mass and doing simple tasks with care and attention. Looking back, I remember feelings of satisfaction, joy and peace which I now consider to be aspects of ‘immersion’ (baptism) in Jesus’ Spirit where it is his presence touching all of us in ways I cannot imagine.
Many scholars seem to be saying that it was the ‘ascended’ Jesus who appeared to his followers after his immersion into the fullness of incarnation with its birthing, evolving and dying and who then reveals the Sacred Realm which is creation fully ‘resurrected’. I can only pray for the gift of faith which says that the power of original creation and of Easter new creation is flowing in and around me and enables me and my communities to move beyond all other ‘sovereignties’ – my desires, fears, resentments and more – and to share his mission of living this Good News. It is also the faith which says that this Lord has been joyfully at work and in control since the beginning and is holding all of us safe in ways we cannot imagine.
Somehow, my safe place ‘in Christ’ is a tiny reflection of our solar system’s place in the Milky Way galaxy. We are situated away from the spiral arms where creative and destructive energies are concentrated: supernovae, gamma-ray bursts, active black holes and much more. We are in a region where all the elements have been formed in ratios suitable for life – not towards the outer edges where heavier elements are scarce. This situation has contributed to the possibility of Life being able to evolve safely on a planet in the Goldilocks Zone and to the existence of each one of us. I consider this to be an extension of Jesus’ Good News of grace at work at the level of individuals and communities who are known and loved and who believe enough to follow his way and trust his presence.
Aspects of the mystery and power of our galaxy include its origin perhaps 13.6 billion years ago, its evolving, the super-massive black hole at its centre, its 90% dark matter, perhaps two hundred billion stars and its ongoing interactions with other galaxies including capturing nearby dwarf galaxies. With these patterns written in the heavens, I begin to wonder if I am one of those who are keeping ourselves ‘too safe’ and not in tune with the flow of Creation and the Mystery and Power of Love’s incarnation.
May each of us participate in new and unimagined ways in the Mystical Body of the evolving Cosmic Christ.
Reflection, 6 May 2018. (Jn 15:9-17)
To all of us, the dynamic life of dwelling in Love – the Universe Being incarnate. Since Thursday, I have been participating in gatherings and circle conversations searching for signs of emerging life in our Edmund Rice Movement. There were many stories of what is happening in schools, alternative education, camps, advocacy and more. On the first day, I became aware of how much it is all about what ‘we’ as individuals and as ministries are doing and our desire for closer ties and a greater awareness of how we live our Founder’s charism. A theme was coming through that we are not alone in exploring the so-called ‘new consciousness’ arising as we learn more of the deeper past of our world and our Universe. I am grateful for an inspiration which became the idea for my first ever ‘tweet’ – that one way to evolve our ways of thinking is to change from speaking about what ‘we’ are doing to describing what the Spirit is doing in, through and with us.
On the second day, our reflections included the notion of ‘the root of the root of . . .’ our existence and, with the Sunday readings in mind, another inspiration told me that the foundation of everything is that the Creator first loves us and everything that exists. It says that all our efforts to serve and forgive are really that first Love flowing through us. In my second tweet, I say that Mystery first loves. I don’t know if anyone read my words and I do suspect that social media is a poor substitute for face-to-face relating. Perhaps the Spirit has much more to teach me.
The third day was moving towards what we might choose to do as a next step and I thought (no tweet) of Jesus choosing me and all of us for some possibly new way of ‘bearing fruit’ and the larger dimension of caring for our common home. Our choice, my choice, is around ‘remaining in his love’ – that first flow of love throughout the Universe. I read about the giant super-cluster of perhaps one hundred thousand galaxies which some astronomers call Laniakea (Immeasurable Heavens) and which, towards its edge, includes our Milky Way and local cluster. One writes that the expansion of the Universe caused by dark energy is breaking the bonds of gravity which operate between and within these giant superclusters – as though even at this huge scale, it is possible not to ‘remain’ bound to other ‘nearby’ entities. I wonder how much that is reflected in our human propensity to act with no sense of bonds to others or to ‘The Great Attractor’ whose life, death and resurrection reveals other dimensions to the Mystery we call Love.
At the end of three days of gathering with about one hundred people, I joined twelve others to continue the ‘listening’ and I was able to speak of my dreaming. I imagine small, local family groups using the ‘conversation circle’ process as a means of walking together into growing awareness of the mystery of Love’s flow in and around us with special focus on caring for our common home. My inspiration on this occasion revealed a blockage within me: thinking that my hidden anger is too dangerous and must be kept suppressed, along with the revelation that it is really a gift of energy, of passion which has been distorted and a share in the groaning of creation. I can only wonder what the Spirit is doing through and with me on these occasions.
May each of us grow and evolve in the Cosmic Christ as mirrors of Love Incarnate.
Command – love one another.
This is my bequest to you –
let it measure you regularly,
stirring you to review your life:
Just as I have kindled a big fire
from leaves and twigs in you,
just as a seed led you to
full-bloomed love for me,
use the small and weak
to kindle and grow
the mystery of love for each other
and for the “other” parts of self.
The most powerful way
to love like this asks you
to sacrifice your images
of who you think you are,
to work inside before
you respond outside,
to feel Alaha’s impatience for love
in your own.
(The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus. Neil Douglas-Klotz p152)
Reflection, 29 April 2018. (Vine and branches)
To all of us, the pruning of the Word who is our life-giving vine. I sense myself being ‘pruned’ quite regularly and it is mostly about being brought back to the present moment from my dreaming and imagining of the future. It happened during the conversation circle in which I participated on Monday when I spoke for too long in my effort to let ‘life’ flow through me. I suspect that my problem was the ‘effort’ when the proper response of a branch is to connect deeply to the vine and allow its natural ‘fruit’ to unfold, fruit which will be much greater than I can imagine. I am slowly learning what it means to keep Jesus’ words alive in me and how ‘my’ thoughts can be unnecessary growth.
In his homily, our parish priest, from the Philippines, spoke of the images we have from our local vineyards while there are none in his homeland. He mentioned the grape clusters and their communal aspect and I now picture the multiple rows of vines which speak to me of even bigger structures reflecting our desires for freshness and for wine in our shared meals and celebrations. I became more aware of the workings of the greater vine in Monday’s circle and again after Mass when about twenty of our parishioners gathered to farewell our community member who is leaving us in the next few days. Many have appreciated the fruits of her connection to the vine and we may require further pruning to fill the gap she leaves behind. Perhaps the task will involve being more conscious of giving ‘glory’ to the Source of all blessings.
Another aspect of immense structures was highlighted on ANZAC Day with its memories of what happens when whole nations have a different sense of ‘vine’ and decide for themselves who belongs and who is to be thrown into the fire. At the local dawn service and breakfast, I noticed a couple of veterans who live with physical consequences of war and can only wonder and give thanks to all those who continue to support them and enable them to live the best possible lives. I think of my own father who survived, with injuries, and his two brothers who are buried in overseas war cemeteries and I wonder about the impact on my life and what I in turn pass on to others. It is blessing and curse together which highlights both the good fruits and the need for the intimacy and closeness of the One with the knife. Perhaps it is stories about the fruits of believing that are needed to further our Creator’s glory.
I imagine that these structures are little mirrors of the unimaginable ones which began to take shape in the early Universe when the first stars formed and gravity caused them to swirl and dance into proto-galaxies and clusters. Scientists can only guess at the processes involved and theorise about the role of ‘cold dark matter’ and ‘black holes’ in life’s story so far – the story of you, me and all our communities. Perhaps the pruning continues as some galaxies seem to contain huge clouds of gas and high rates of star formation while others have little or no free gas and low or no star formation. They may all have roles to play in the Creator’s glory even as withered branches become fuel for fires. I sense that my efforts need to focus on remaining connected to the true vine in faith and love.
May each of us grow as disciples bearing fruit for the sake of our common home.
Reflection, 22 April 2018. (Good Shepherd)
To all of us, the shepherding of the One in whom the Universe lives, moves and has its being. One of my moments of being ‘shepherd’ during the week involved a community exercise of gathering cow pats for making manure for the garden and another involved me gathering all the ingredients and a recipe for my first attempt at making fig jam. We have a fig tree which is still giving us 15 to 20 ripe figs each day thanks to the warmer than usual autumn days and I gave myself the task of harvesting them and doing something to preserve the blessing of having them. Eventually I produced several jars of conserve which some of us are enjoying on a daily basis along with fresh figs.
These happenings are small reflections of the Good Shepherd’s work in ‘shepherding’ those of us who have been engaging in our ‘conversation circles’ where some aspects of healing are occurring and which remind me of the Emotional Release Counselling activities, including circles, in which I participated many years ago. Jesus may not have been mentioned or even thought of, yet any healing has been through his, and only his, name and Spirit as Peter reports in the reading from Acts. I can look back and reflect that he seems to have been shepherding lost and hidden parts of me out of the shadows into safe and nurturing places where they find their true role at my inner round table – and that is his healing where I put aside my small life and take up something of his wholeness.
This bringing together of different aspects and energies has been going on since the beginning of space-time in processes which have come to fulfilment in One who ‘lays down his life for his sheep’ and for their fullness of life. Early steps saw the formation of nuclei and atoms which then were shepherded to form the first star through the gravitational attraction of dark matter. The fundamental particles were still present as the foundation of new entities and processes with nuclear fusion, emission of UV light and, ultimately, Jesus’ resurrection body. I imagine a pattern in which every particle ‘lays down’ its identity in order to ‘take up’ a new life which contributes to wholeness, union and fullness of life and purpose. There most likely was a ‘first star’ whose existence brought about light and transparency in the Universe and whose violent, supernova death produced shock waves and the materials for a second generation of stars, including heavier elements. The pattern of this kind of love is etched in every particle in and around me and all of us and it points to the mysteries of a future yet to be revealed.
This inherent pattern may explain my excitement in conversations around ‘where to next’ within religious life and the Church with the 2020 Plenary Council on the horizon. The word most often used is ‘listen’ and the gospel reminds me of the importance of heeding the Good Shepherd in all his incarnations.
May each of us listen more and more closely as Love calls us to follow the patterns of Creation all the way to Resurrection.
Reflection, 15 April 2018. (Lk 24:35-48)
To all of us, the encounters with the Risen Jesus which transform our agitations, fears and doubts into joy and mission. I can sense all of these feeling in me at the moment as I reflect on conversations I have had in the last few days. Here at Glenburn, we have just hosted a group of ladies who meet regularly and follow the same ‘circles’ method which we brothers have begun in the last year and I mentioned it to them. They were here for three days of circle work and one of them shared a dream in which I appeared, on roller-blades, carrying food and nourishment to a baby. Of course, there were issues in the dream for her and they wondered if there might be something in it for me. I was not alone in sensing the Spirit at work. I was even given a copy of the book to read and absorb.
We brothers are about to hold our own three-day gathering to explore possible new aspects of ministry. Our circles have been a way of beginning the conversations and it occurred to me that these circle practices may be at least a significant ‘baby’ in supporting any developments. My fears and doubts try to tell me that I am not the right person for carrying this further and my joy tells me that, at least for today, I am ‘in Christ’ and all I have to do is listen and ‘obey’ (with echoes of the second reading from 1 John). I was told of workshops in July which would be very worthwhile so there are possible paths to follow.
I have glimpsed the chapter headings in the book and am intrigued when I see that story, the shadow and collective healing each have their own chapter. I imagine Jesus with the disciples in this gospel passage and see these three aspects in action. We can take the story back to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and then all the way back to the Universe’s beginning while wondering what ‘new creation’ is happening in this Resurrection-matter of Jesus’ body and in his emphasis on its same-but -different nature as well as on his repetition of the need to continue giving witness to repentance and forgiveness. He was hosting and continues to host his own ‘circles of empowerment’ which include new dimensions of the evolving story and the essential markers of his Way.
Our story now says that in the beginning, about 14.8 billion years ago, was the sphere of expanding creation and that, after something like 380,000 years, electrons began to be trapped in circular orbits around the nuclei which had formed in the first few minutes. The conditions were right for new developments as space-time cooled and became less dense. Circling took on new aspects as galaxies and solar systems took shape and again when the first humans on this planet sat around fires – a situation which enhanced language, intimacy, expressions of awe and wonder and much more. The circle is deep in our spiritual DNA and I wonder how much Jesus’ resurrection is telling us that the time (i.e. the last two thousand years) is right for his kind of circle with his kind of Merciful Love at the centre.
May each of us continue to evolve our living circles and our consciousness of Christ’s presence, invitation and missioning.
Reflection, 8 April 2018. (Jn 20:19-31)
To all of us, the peace, joy and Spirit of being ‘in Christ’ and living the way of forgiveness. I can imagine Thomas being extremely sad, hurt and angry that his dreams of Jesus’ Messiahship had been destroyed, that his own life was in danger and that he had missed out on the excitement of that ‘first day of the week’ which he thought was impossible and something he could not deserve. That describes me as does his glimmer of hope which brings him to the group a week later. He is hanging on to the last threads before a final separation (which seems to be the original sinning) and finds himself welcomed in his individuality and confronted with the deeper reality of the Reign of Love. I trust that I can be like him and continue to grow and evolve as a unique witness to Living Peace.
In the second reading, John tells us that ‘keeping not-difficult commandments’ in faith is the way of love. These seem to include believing, love of all (including enemies), forgiveness, retaining sins and testifying to Jesus’ Resurrection. There are times when I can obey some of this and I wonder if I could ever name the sinfulness within me and especially around me as not yet forgiven and as not compatible with being fully alive. Only Ruah, the Spirit-breath, could make this easy in any sense and probably requires a group ‘united, heart and soul’ to discern how to proceed in Love. I wonder how much this is a call, even a ‘command’, to me and my communities for the sake of our common home.
I have taken a couple of steps in response to this ‘whisper’ in the last week. We enjoyed a visit here at Glenburn from a member of our congregational leadership team which included a community conversation around our life together and then I participated in a ‘conversation circle’ with other brothers in Melbourne which focused more on our place within Earth’s web of life. Both invited me to reflect on ways in which we are united and in which we are on separate paths. I see the Spirit moving amongst us, other religious groups and the Australian church as we move towards chapters and the 2020 Plenary Council. My sense is that all of us are called to return to the essentials of our following of Jesus as put to us in the Easter readings and to find for these times the peace and joy of a strong and mature faith like that of Thomas which will attract others to this way of living which is both old and new.
The essentials, according to some scientists, of our Universe seem to include an imbalance in the numbers of particles and anti-particles which occurred within the first second of space-time when most of the particles which emerged into existence collided with their opposite and annihilated themselves. The small fraction of particles remaining became the matter of our Universe and my notion is that each of them retains a sense of their original unity within the formless singularity and rejoices whenever a step is taken towards their final reunion. From the beginning, violence, unevenness and asymmetry have been instrumental in the journey and we can see that mirrored in the wounds of the joyful Risen Jesus and in Thomas’s steps from doubt to faith and peace. I sense that it is the same excitement and joy which I experience in risking conversations of vulnerability, trust and forgiveness in the presence of our loving Christ.
May each of us heed the commands of Sacred Unity and trust the Resurrection-life in and around us.
Reflection, 1 April 2018. (Easter)
To all of us, joyful participation in Resurrection Life and its New Creation. There are theories attempting to enlighten us about the original ‘creation’ of our Universe 13.8 billion years ago and it remains a mystery as does the raising of Jesus the Christ from a tomb near Jerusalem about 2000 years ago. In both cases, the laws of matter and energy as we understand them seem not to apply. The devastated ones who went to the place of Jesus’ burial came away afraid, mystified, wondering – and at least one of them ‘believed’ that something deemed impossible had occurred. The rules are now different or at least more fully revealed and I wonder what they are.
Perhaps one is that the darkness does not and cannot overcome the Light which has been there from the beginning, the ‘first day’ of Genesis 1 and the energy of the ‘big bang’. There is no ending and ‘death’ is the doorway to the complete fullness of life which we begin to experience in following the Way of the Cosmic Christ from the formless void through material, living shapes to the new forms of Resurrection life. Like the disciples, women and men, who were at the beginning stage of their understanding at that Passover, the notion of what this means is making a slow journey from my head to my heart as my fears and concerns give way more and more to joy and peace.
Perhaps another aspect of this ‘new’ law is that the darkness and the light will always coexist, that the wounds provide the means of revealing creation’s inherent trajectory and power to bring goodness out of every circumstance. This was highlighted for me when our Stations of the Cross on Good Friday included a large, wooden cross to which we could attach small branches of leaves of different colours and shapes and which became a feature of the Easter liturgies. Now I have a sense of participating in and contributing to both the suffering and renewing of life – reflecting our state of being created in the image and likeness of Sacred Unity.
Perhaps, too, there is the command to tell of our roles in the unfolding of new creation in and around us and of our feelings from torment and devastation to amazement and awe. For our aging, rural congregation of no more than fifty during Triduum ceremonies, I became a mixture of commentator, alter server, fire lighter and bearer of a glass of water for the celebrant. I had thought about what to say on each occasion only to become too distracted with organising proceedings and I could say only that the Triduum story is our story – my story. I can only give thanks for the beginnings of understanding how Love works and for the opportunity to do my bit while trusting that the Spirit is doing much more in the minds and hearts of those who joined the celebration as well as in the great picture of our emerging and evolving Universe.
May each of us grow in wonder of Resurrection and in our obedience to the laws of New Creation.
Reflection, 25 March 2018. (Holy Week)
To all of us, the grace to empty ourselves evermore humbly until we are fully alive in Love. I look at Jesus in the readings of this week and begin to glimpse how much more I have to learn about how to love as he loves and how to be faithful to ‘First Love’, to Sacred Unity. I read a commentary describing the Mediterranean culture of honour and shame in which Jesus lived. I can imagine him doing all he could to bring honour to his Lord and trusting that that was all he had to do. He was prepared to empty himself, to ride the colt (of a donkey), to be misunderstood, rejected, and to be betrayed, insulted, tortured and abandoned even by his Creator – all common manifestations of shame – for the sake of the honour of Love’s Realm. And ‘God raised him to the highest place’ as obedient son, richly anointed before his death and burial, facing fake charges which ironically name him as ‘king’ and one who knows his real status when face to face with the underling, Pilate. I have a long way to go.
I did take some steps forward when I spoke up at a recent gathering about my experience of introducing pre-school teachers in Timor Leste to the Gospel story and to Jesus on a weekly basis. I have no idea of the medium- or long-term results of my efforts and I still sense an inner satisfaction that I did my little bit and the Spirit could do much more. My speaking up about the very limited opportunities in many of our communities to reflect together about our lives in Christ brought up some of the same feelings as well as echoes of my childhood fears around authority figures. I wonder how much I am learning to honour my true Self and to participate in the Flow of Love with its choice of self-emptying and of using my ‘disciple’s tongue’ – where I avoid deep shame and come to peace and even to joy. I give thanks that, this time, I did another little bit.
My step in faith is a dim reflection of the steps of Jesus and of so many who are suffering in this Anthropocene Era when Earth, our common home, is under great threat from blind human activity which seeks gratification rather than the honour of being servants who are fully alive within the web of all life. The Anthropocene website speaks of the acceleration of the impacts to the global economic system and one of its suggestions is the need for increased ‘resilience thinking’ around social-ecological systems which is happening already in places around our world. I am tempted to get caught up in the hope which such suggestions can create and then I wonder where the Cosmic Christ fits into the picture.
Jesus walked his way of obedience, humility and giving honour without knowing how his very human story would end. Now we know the hope of resurrection which provides ‘resilience faith’ in the Light always shining in the ever-present darkness. His story is still preeminent and needs to be told. May each of us honour and live his Way with our ears open, especially in this Holy Week, for the next step in our evolving lives.
Reflection, 18 March 2018. (Jn 12:20-33)
To all of us, the grace to submit to the ‘Law’ at the heart of the Universe. Jesus seems to describe this ‘law’ in terms of the wheat seed falling, dying and yielding a rich harvest – a universal pattern which honours the Creating Source and which humans can choose to follow. It is alive and dynamic, incorporating both power and powerlessness as it produces new creation from ‘packets’ of energy all the way to Resurrection. I feel its ‘troubling’ aspect whenever I face a ‘little death’ in saying or doing something new and when I trust that the Spirit is moving in and through whatever happens. Somehow, this is me being drawn into the Cosmic Christ where fear is acknowledged and ‘glory’ is experienced as Love evolves.
After our Sunday Mass, we had a gathering of parishioners in our parish house to celebrate our new priest’s 30 years of ordination. It was a ‘troubling’ as well as a life-giving moment for me when it fell to me to say a few words and present him with a card and a gift from all of us. Somehow – in the Spirit – the words flowed and all was well. Now as I reflect on the reading from Hebrews, I read that Jesus, like a priest, offers up ‘prayer and entreaty’ during his life on Earth and the Gospel reports his prayer as, “Father, glorify your name!” I sense that all of us share in this ‘priesthood’ which includes the petitions as well as the recognitions of the glory in which we live and grow. Rolyn says that he is still learning what it is to be priest and I give thanks that I, too, have many opportunities to participate in the ‘wheat grain’ law.
There is an inevitability about the cycle of seed and harvest which invites me to wonder about the consequences of climate change which are being felt in Australia now: cyclonic winds in Darwin and destructive fires in Victoria and NSW. These are highlighting issues of food and water among others as some are told to boil drinking water while others are burying dead livestock. Many have very immediate challenges to their values and priorities and all of us are called to prepare for future challenges, especially that of hope and faith in the cycle of Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. There are many signs that his Spirit is at work as people come together with compassion, developing new and more environmentally methods of farming and building, improving technology and living more simply. Those of us ‘in Christ’ are still called to witness to ‘the prince of this world being overthrown’ in our own lives and in all these circumstances and to partake in the daily bread and wine of Eucharistic Presence.
May each of us learn from Jesus about his priorities of doing the Father’s will and allowing the Creator’s power to bring new and surprising life through our submission.
Reflection, 11 March 2018. (Jn 3:14-21)
To all of us, the grace to bring our darkness to the light of self-sacrificing Love. As I wondered about Moses lifting up the serpent, I asked myself if he was somehow honouring a poisonous killer and then if he was inviting the people to find a solution by gazing at the apparent problem. I can imagine putting that unwelcome visitor ‘up’ into the space where Earth intersects with the Realm of Mystery and coming to recognise it as a call to repent, to put their focus back on the One leading them to freedom. I have made attempts to ‘raise up’ the disturbances in and around me recently, to respect them as even essential aspects of an evolving creation, and found moments of peace (before the next one slithers in and I am tempted to rage, to flight or to deny). I can only give thanks to Mercy who welcomes all of me into the Light.
I look back over my life and see many occasions when I ‘preferred darkness to the light’ and now I am beginning to sense that both are inherent in creation and therefore in each microcosm of the Whole. When Paul talks about ‘God’s work of art’, I believe that he means us as individuals as much as us as communities and Body of Christ and that the ‘good life’ we are meant to live is built on both the raising up of ‘serpents’ and of receiving Mercy’s freedom and joy – the gift of ‘eternal life’ here and now. On Tuesday, I went along again to Mt Atkinson to join in the talk of a possible new community of our Edmund Rice Network as the development builds momentum. I sense that it is a challenge for most to acknowledge our own darkness and light, collectively and individually, as the materials with which the Artist works and to trust that it is about life evolving. Even this kind of conversation is inhabited by serpents as I reflected when I came across a snake skin in the very dry grass out from my window.
Lots of notions fly through my mind as I wonder what response a new community might make to the signs of these times. The sight through my window reflects February’s rain here – 3.5mm compared to a recent average of 52mm – while other parts of the continent are in flood. I read the verse in 2 Chronicles about a land ‘enjoying’ a Sabbath rest during seventy years of desolation and I wonder how much it is a prophesy for this century pointing to the Artist’s methods. Words like ‘very high risk’ and ‘unprecedented’ are being used to describe climate change and the likely need to begin removing CO2 from the atmosphere now to prevent a temperature rise of 1.50 before the 2040s (as the IPCC seems to be thinking). By then, too, most of our energy will need to come from renewable sources and there is need for reforms in all areas from agriculture to industry – and I would add, in religions. Small steps are being taken and perhaps it is that darkness, light and Sabbath are all tools for our evolving Universe Being at scales large and small. The ultimate need may be for walking with and guiding people wanting to live by the Truth as together we encounter both serpents and grace.
May each of us participate in Mystery’s flow into unimagined Life through lifting up and gazing upon the crosses which reveal blessings.
Reflection, 4 March 2018. (Jn 2:13-25)
To all of us, the Passover grace of the crucified Christ. For centuries, the Jewish people have been on pilgrimage to the Temple where the Holy of Holies hides the Ark and the slabs of the Commandments of the Covenant. Jesus comes and says that the New is arriving to fulfil the ‘old’ which has become corrupted and is now out-of-date; the command is now to love; YHWH’s dwelling place is now in our hearts and the sacrifice is that of our own wills and minds. He does not ‘trust himself’ to many who say they believe because we are to read the signs for ourselves and the one that matters involves death and resurrection.
I was heartened last Monday when I participated in a Conversation Circle with members of the Edmund Rice Network, including brothers, which is part of a process of reading today’s signs and discerning how the Spirit is moving in us here and now. I enjoyed hearing others talk about the significance of Jesus in their lives and the call to Christ’s mission in our world. I felt further affirmation when I attended our local, ecumenical World Day of Prayer on Friday and received a glimpse of life in another part of Earth which shares different aspects of the suffering of our planet. Now I begin to reflect on the notion that the Creator’s sanctuary is the Universe and how our human desire seems to be to make all of it into a ‘market’ for the sake of limited ideas of progress, power and control. We still need the Wisdom who is incarnated and evolving.
My own heart is an aspect of this larger ‘Sanctuary’ and a situation which seems to need Jesus and his whip many times each day. I think of it as a process evolving me from heeding the ‘natural law’ of the Ark into obedience of the Love law written in every particle of my being and of the web of life in which I participate. It is about letting go of past and future, of needing signs, ‘miracles’ and the wisdom of the Greeks and allowing the foolishness and weakness of Oneness to flow in and through me. I can only pray for the zeal to persist as I am ‘devoured’ and which is the energy that Jesus might be expecting when he looks at me.
I wonder about participating in communities which live and share this zeal ‘for the sake of our common home’ and sanctuary. The whip is needed as we contribute blindly to global warming with its consequences including rising sea levels and the flow-on effects of erosion, flooding, aquifer and agricultural soil contamination, lost habitat, more powerful storm surges and environmental refugees. This is human ‘wisdom’ at work and the oceans will expand for at least one hundred years. I am partly responsible and am called to witness to our crucified Christ.
May each of us pass over every day into more consciously living the Way of rising from death.
Reflection, 25 February 2018. (Mk 9:2-10)
To all of us, the grace to see the Glory of the Holy One shining through every act of self-denial we make. Abraham would not have known that offering his son to God was something of an image of the work of the Creator whose own Essence was given to the evolving and violent world of form so that Love would be manifest in ever deeper and amazing ways. In Jesus on the mountain, light and dark, Law and Prophets, faith and fear all come together in a life to which we are called to ‘listen’ with all our senses and in which we are called to participate – for it is ‘wonderful for us to be here!’
I read an article in a recent National Geographic with the title ‘Why Birds Matter’ and the answer given involves wonder and ‘the health of our ethical values’. I can marvel at the parrots which come for a feed, especially the return today of the old pair who sit on my hand (with the female missing half her tail feathers), and be concerned about the disappearing summer sea-ice in the Arctic (article in the same issue) and about the cold air from that region moving over Europe this week and being replaced by warmer air, and then reflect on the wonder experienced by the Apostles on the mountain. They were gifted to see something of Jesus’ essence and affirmed in their following him and left with questions which would be answered more and more fully during the remainder of their lives and beyond with each of us having to find our own way ‘in the Spirit’ and to grow in valuing the place of this Living Word in it. We do have both questions about the future of ‘our common home’ and St Paul’s assurance that God is on our side and for our benefit. Our role is to ‘listen’.
During the last week, I have been helping in several ways in the preparation and running of our parish’s fund-raising event, a Picnic Race Meeting at the Yea racetrack. I have been responding to requests for driving (three days), putting up shelters, carrying loads, packing hampers and disposing of empty boxes. Occasionally, I was aware of heeding inner calm as stress levels rose in and around me and of my efforts to maintain and spread that peace, especially when the unexpected happened, like a key getting stuck in a lock (next morning, it was mysteriously free). It was wonderful to see the willingness and gifts of so many parishioners and parents of students – another glimpse of Goodness which is inherent in all of us.
May each of us grow in gratitude to our Creator for the testing times when we are called to align what is most precious to us with what is most precious to the Source of All Being.
Reflection, 18 February 2018. (Mk 1:12-15)
To all of us, the grace to lament and repent our Kingdom failures. On Friday, I participated in a ‘Service of Lament’ in which a highlight was an apology to the victims of child abuse, especially the abuse perpetrated by some of our brothers and other members of our church. At the start of this Lenten season, it is a summons to examine our way of life, to lament the culture and systems which allowed abuse of all kinds to happen in the past and may be happening now, and to build on the faithfulness which still exists. My own lament on the day was that there was little reference to Jesus and the healing which can occur when we are consciously and explicitly ‘in Christ’ – and I suspect that this ‘failure’ is a significant and long-lasting aspect of church culture.
I reflect on Jesus in the wilderness (and later in the Garden) and how he witnesses to a lifestyle in which both wild beasts and angels are acknowledged and even honoured. Perhaps the temptation is to focus more on one than on the other like the perpetrators of abuse who have swung too far towards their animal instincts. Jesus maintained the balance through growing awareness of the powers of nature, inner and outer, and of his inherent ‘divine’ nature. In my more dysfunctional days of fear, anger and using corporal punishment, my sense of faith and angelic spirits was very limited. I rejoice in my ongoing metanoia with its sense of participating in the Reign of Mercy (always close at hand) even as I lament that words like these are rarely used.
My lament grows as I hear of violence: wars, mass shootings, storms and cyclones, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. It deepens as I consider how I and my communities are contributing through our current lifestyles to global warming and its consequences. Increasing extremes of weather affect food and cash crops in developing countries which reduces what can be paid for health and education. I read that the Arctic’s summer sea-ice has been shrinking year by year – during my lifetime – and is projected to be at less than 10% of what it was when I was born by 2050. This remnant, in an unpolluted sea, may offer the last hope for the animals depending on the edge of the ice for their living and survival. Creation is groaning, calling for us to fast from doing harm and desiring that we believe in the Realm of self-giving Love.
I sense that our Creator is also whispering from deep within for me and my communities to endure the wilderness and the lamenting as necessary instruments for evolving ‘in the Cosmic Christ’ and maintaining the Covenant made with Noah which promises that the devastation of the ‘flood’ will not occur again. My Lent began with ashes on Wednesday and an Indigenous smoking ceremony on Friday reminding me to give thanks for the blessings which keep coming even as I refuse many of them. I am looking out of my window and seeing the drying ground and the browning grass and I am wondering about the ‘baptism’ described by Peter in the second reading as more than water-washing, as a ‘pledge made to God from a good conscience’. Our place needs rain and even more needs us to be cleaned by Mercy and to make good our promises.
May each of us lament, and pledge to live out of Oneness with greater trust in the ‘bow in the clouds’ for the sake of our common home.
Reflection, 11 February 2018. (Mk 1:40-45)
To all of us, the deep faith which allows healing to flow in and through us. This call to faith has come to me in several ways in the last week, beginning on Monday evening when I went along to a gathering of a community of brothers and non-vowed members for a Eucharistic celebration and dinner. The theme was Creation, especially that of us humans ‘in the image and likeness of God’ and I reflected how the Spirit seems to bringing this to the fore around the world and how, for me, it is a call to grow into an evolving, mature spirituality which takes into account the entire Universe with self-sacrificing Love at its heart. Now I reflect on the story of Jesus healing a ‘leper’ and how it provides a picture of what it means to be that fully alive person.
The Messiah touches his own deep compassion for the one who has been seen to be ‘polluting’ his community and who has been thrown out. Jesus touches the man, sharing the uncleanness and enables a sharing of the ‘image and likeness’ which he recognises in himself and in the other. This is the Christ whom Paul takes as his model – humbling himself, fully human and evolving through suffering. The ‘leper’ provides another aspect of the picture where recognising one’s own uncleanness as superficial is as necessary as recognising that the cure is readily available in our ‘divine DNA’.
On Tuesday and Wednesday, I enjoyed conversations with two different people with their own experiences of being ‘outside the camp’ – one a brother and the other an Indigenous woman. My joy came from their trust in me and in the brief encounters with others who share thoughts and feelings similar to my own. Both spoke of their pain of desiring to walk beside us brothers into healing and wholeness and finding little or no response. I wonder how much that has happened because many of us avoid the way of compassion, humility and shared suffering pictured in the Gospels.
The week ended with another Jubilee celebration, this time in Melbourne, when successes and achievements were highlighted with virtually no reference to joyful encounters with Mystery similar to that of the leper who could not contain himself. I was happy and grateful to celebrate with family as the cured man would have done for blessings received. The call remains to seek out Jesus as did the people who heard the man’s story and to hear more stories of the Spirit evolving life in and around us.
While people like Lamark, Darwin and Mendel have helped us learn about our creaturely origins and how genes and mutations have worked to make us who we are as unique individuals, they leave us wondering. I wonder how much the healing power flowing through Jesus is inherent in the spiritual DNA of all of us, and especially of our communities ‘in Christ’ as is the hope and faith of those who seek to him in these communities. Perhaps the challenge for me is to work to make his Presence evermore touchable in and around me.
May each of us grow in the faith which says that healing power is always present deep in the essence of evolving Creation.
Reflection, 4 February 2018. (Mk 1:29-39)
To all of us, the health to pray and serve ‘in Christ’. I read that it would have been most unusual for a mother-in-law to be living with her daughter who belonged to her husband’s family – she must have had no one else to care for her, no husband and no sons and daughters-in-law. If so, she may have received a special gift of welcome from Peter and felt obliged to repay the debt through her service. Then she receives another special gift from Jesus which enables her to serve at a new level in response to the care and faith of those who brought him to her. Now she has a new story to tell and possibly a lot of organising to do as people come to the door. She is not the only one rejoicing and giving thanks for new life.
I have been giving thanks for the women in my life recently and especially when I was present on Friday at the 2018 Inaugural Mass at St Patrick’s College, Shorncliffe, and the commissioning of student leaders during which the fathers helped the young men put on their blazers and their mothers pinned on their badges – with hugs all round. I look at mothers and see a different way of ‘preaching’ and ‘casting out devils’ with touch being very significant. Then there is Jesus touching the ill woman in the Gospel reading and probably many more that evening and in many other places in Galilee. I wonder how I and my communities can continue his mission of ‘touching’ and turning around people’s lives and how much that is founded on witnessing to his evolving story.
I experienced a different kind of ‘touch’ when, in a dream, a woman approaches me and tells me that she is pregnant. She radiates a deep joy and peace as she moves away and now I am partly puzzled and quite delighted at the prospect of new life in my worlds both inner and outer. I wonder about evolving stories and responsibilities which continue Jesus’ move from Capernaum to other places in Galilee and on to Jerusalem proclaiming the Good News of a Loving Presence who cares for all Creation and whose healing touch is available to all. The students at St Pat’s may be demonstrating something of this when they stand side by side with their arms around each other’s shoulders to sing their school song. More of the Mystery will be revealed in the Spirit’s time.
Isaac Newton was one who revealed aspects of the mystery of our Universe when he described light as ‘corpuscles in motion’ and tried to explain its complexity and its refraction into different colours. He went on to build the first known reflecting telescope and eventually to proclaim ‘universal gravitation’ as the force behind the motion of stars, planets, moons and even falling apples. He was a champion of the scientific method and of ‘truth’ yet his life seems to have been empty of human touch. Now I can imagine Love as the power within all forms of attraction, drawing entities together, keeping others in motion and in dynamic balance, and even powering our Universe’s expansion which creates womb-like spaces. For people like Newton and St Paul, this Mystery seems to obligate teaching, exploring and acting for the benefit of the Whole. I pray that I can grow in openness to the touch of Truth and its simplicity.
May each of us grow as servants of the living and evolving Light whose touch gets us up and enlivens our sense of purpose.
Reflection, 28 January 2018. (Mk 1:21-28)
To all of us, growing faith in the authority we share ‘in Christ’. Looking back to my classroom teaching career, I suspect that I taught out of my ‘authority’ – my inner ‘substance’ – on various occasions and also out of my fears in many other situations. I have been a teacher in many ways since those days and have been aware of both foundations even as I seem drawn to speak more of Jesus and his impact in my life. I have been wondering for some time about the core business of being ‘Church’ and this Gospel reading paints a picture of him teaching about YHWH, most likely with reference to the Jewish scriptures. He is sounding like the one described by Moses in the first reading – the one who is even more important than Moses and the one to whom we ‘must listen’ and submit. The topic remains that of Love’s Realm for all of us who follow his Way.
Moses, Jesus and Paul tell us to focus on the One who is the Supreme Authority at the heart of Creation and even to seek whatever grace is necessary to remove the obstacles which distract us. I know how easy it is for me to leave the Spirit out of the picture in any present moment and to wait too long before acting when I am aware of Sacred Presence. My faith is challenged to grow every time and this sense seems to be part of the ‘teaching that is new’ – that is always alive, active and whispering for risk-taking. I can only give thanks for forgiveness and for the unfailing Love calling me onward to tell more of the stories.
One of the people with a story to tell was Copernicus who heeded his own ‘authority’, his own understandings of our world, when he proposed to friends in 1514 that Earth was not the centre of the Universe. This was about one hundred years before telescopes were invented. He risked being burned at the stake for heresy. The ‘Church’ had its own sense of ‘authority’ based on traditions and permanence – nothing ‘new’ allowed. He could speak and write of a heliocentric creation where gravity was key. Aristarchus in the third century BC had written about this and Galileo may have picked up on both earlier writings and was able to see much more through his improved telescopes. Maths and science were gaining authority through measurements and experiments while the ‘Church’ seems to have been trying to keep itself as central and key. I give joyful thanks for my growing awareness of the loving Creator at the heart of our evolving and expanding Universe – and the Teacher Supreme who continues to reveal new aspects of the Realm of Incarnation.
Jesus’ teaching highlights the role of suffering on the path to his deep authority and I was imagining how his followers could have much to teach to those on the Invasion Day march which I joined on Friday, Australia Day. There were many angry voices and I wondered about the underlying pain which seems to need his authority for driving out the ‘unclean spirits’ and bringing wholeness, the acceptance of all aspects of the Black History of this land and of forgiveness. It is a very new lesson to learn that the cross is a victory because the ultimate destiny is Resurrection – a story we are to hold at the centre of our lives.
May each of us grow as people of authority ‘in Christ’ and participants in the unfolding stories of Love.
Reflection, 21 Jan ’18. (Mk 1:14-20)
To all of us, the grace to discern and proclaim Kingdom possibilities. I can imagine that Jesus, baptised, filled with the Spirit and returning from the desert, is very alert to signs like John’s arrest and the people’s longing for peace and justice. He calls for repentance and for faith in YHWH who has touched him and so is revealed as ‘close at hand’ for anyone who is prepared to ‘turn their hearts and minds around’. His personal encounter gives him a model which he uses when he sees four fishermen whom he has most likely met before and he calls them to ‘follow’ and into deeper levels of what fishing is about. In that moment, he glimpses possibilities and acts. The fishermen glimpse possibilities for a new life of freedom, probably with the Romans and Temple taxes in mind, and they act. There is something compelling about this ‘lamb’ and it will take a lifetime to fulfil the promises.
Jonah provides a picture of what can happen in the ‘following’ and Paul’s words to the Corinthians seem to be about encouraging them to glimpse something deeper than the impending food shortage at the time (due to climate change). The world as they knew it was changing at deeper levels and they, too, are reminded of the enduring need to put the Living Word before all their ordinary concerns and to grow in faith that Resurrection Life is a reality even if disasters do happen. The Creator has a very different way of dealing with the consequences of both idolatry and faithful love.
The ‘Black Death’ events in Europe and beyond were an unforeseen disaster just over six hundred years ago and climate change seems to have been a contributing factor. In places like England, there were significant changes in people’s minds and hearts as they blamed God and the Church (and the Jews) for the deaths of half of the population, including the majority of priests and those in monasteries who tried in vain to save themselves or those for whom they cared. Some despaired, some lived lives of immorality, some slaughtered scapegoats and some accepted their fate. They had questions and no satisfactory answers. Improvements did come in terms of wage rises for the remaining peasants who were in demand to work in the fields and eventually of better education, health care and hygiene. The world still seems for most of us to be a dangerous place and the need remains to proclaim the Good News that there is healing and forgiveness for those who put Love before all else – and the possibility in Christ that disasters can be averted.
I think of my own mixed motives for following Jesus into Religious Living and the mystery of the next step. Many of the older brothers I have met since Christmas have many stories to tell about the past and seem content in their comfortable lifestyles if not with their aging and weakness. I have been surprised on several occasions when other people show an interest in religion and its role in today’s world of global warming, violence and individualism. They are still looking for answers. I can be alert to possibilities in my own limited way both for proclaiming Kingdom News and for healing of my fears and deep wounds (as well as those of recently removed skin cancers). I give thanks for the faith which seems to grow when all these aspects come together with the future building on the past.
May each of us grow and evolve as Jesus brings life to the possibilities he sees daily in and around us.
Reflection, 14 January 2018. (Jn 1:35-42)
To all of us, the grace of seeing where Jesus lives. I read that this notion in John’s Gospel of Jesus’ ‘home’ includes the foundation and source of his existence and ultimate sense of purpose. Those like Andrew and his companion who are searching for ‘something more’ will find answers and further questions when they follow and spend time with the One who invites. What they do ‘see’ – most likely dimly and intuitively – quickly evolves them into excited disciples with a new story and relationship to share which may involve a new name and which will involve very different expectations.
John the Baptist looks ‘hard’ at Jesus who soon is looking ‘hard’ at Simon. Both are seeing beyond the surface and glimpsing truth about themselves as well as about the other and their different calls into the Creator’s ongoing work. As I imagine them looking at me, my sense of fear that there is nothing to see is quickly replaced by a sense of peace and comfort that I do belong in the place ‘where Jesus lives’ and that I am right to be excited about participating in the same Mystery. The listening and ‘hard looking’ will continue to the end of time as will the intention, like Samuel, to ‘let no word of his fall to the ground’ – all ‘for the glory of God’ as Paul says.
Now I wonder how much this Gospel story is a ‘word’ which I and my communities have ‘let fall’ when I look back and recall no instance of my following the pattern. Jesus has been in my head for most of my life and it has been only in the last decade that I have appreciated his living in my heart. I have made little effort to bring others to Jesus in the way that Andrew brings Simon who was a fellow seeker. Perhaps I have not shared my joy enough or not encountered others who are searching for ‘something more’. A key step in the pattern is to spend that ‘day’ with Jesus in the place where he lives and I sense a call for me to grow in awareness of that as being in every aspect of our expanding Universe, especially in the unfolding of every human heart in each present moment.
I read what Paul says to the Corinthians and something of the life of the prophet Muhammed and I see how easy it can be to start on the right path and to be distracted by past temptations and patterns. In Corinth, it seems to have been temple prostitutes and, in Mecca, it may have been using violence and the sword when what was required was ongoing listening, looking, caring for the wellbeing of everyone – body, mind and heart – and making space for the Spirit to work. It seems that the original meaning of ‘templum’ was that space for worship and ritual and so it makes sense to me that it can apply to our inner ‘rooms’ where Jesus and his Spirit live.
May each of us grow in awareness of their transforming presence and of their shared expectations about Love’s flow now and into the future.
Reflection, 7 January 2018. (Epiphany)
The blessings of Incarnation, New Year and Evolving Light to all of us. I have spent most of the past four weeks enjoying familiar gifts of beach, surf, sun and walks in nature both in Brisbane and on the Gold Coast as well as new experiences of companioning a brother in rehabilitation with a brain injury, leading a prayer session with a group of brothers at Bilinga (see poem below) and following tracks which I have not seen before. Things are the same and, at the same time, they are not the same – as it was for the Holy Family, for Herod and for the ‘wise men’ in the Gospel story – and for the whole of Creation as the ‘light’ from our 13.8 billion-year-old fireball takes the shape of a baby who is Creator Incarnate and Ruler of all Light. We know things are different and I can only pray to be open to new meanings on a daily basis.
The Magi’s story suggest that wisdom involves passion, wondering about and glimpsing how events on Earth are mirrored in the heavens and in dreams, the humility to search for answers from the learned, including foreigners, and paying homage to Mystery through offering resources which honour incarnated divinity and the evolutionary path of suffering and dying. As I think of the Bora Ring which a brother showed me at Tweed Heads South, I suspect that these themes were recognised by Indigenous People and our ancestors around the world as the path of initiation into wisdom and I become excited at the thought of continuing the tradition in a community of those who are both disciples and teachers. Herod and his addictions, especially to power and control, remind me about the consequences of refusing to keep a focus on the infant in the manger who brings joy and peace into times of darkness.
I read a book in the past few weeks called ‘The Unseen Therapist’ which reinforces for me the benefits of bringing peace and calm to the inner world of memories and feelings as a process for healing both body and mind. The delight and wonder of seeing the recent full moon over the ocean and of following a track with many beautifully laid stone steps have replaced some of the tensions locked up in my body, as have images of the Christmas crib where I take the time to participate in the unfolding harmony and promise which includes all Creation. My challenge is to believe more deeply that all I need to do, like Mary did, is to consent to the unique path prepared for me by the Spirit for my initiation into full Life.
May each of us give our consent each day to Mystery revealing in and through us the light and glory out of which we are formed.
‘Hail, space for the uncontained God’
From the Agathistos Hymn,
We know the scene: the room, variously furnished,
almost always a lectern, a book; always
the tall lily.
Arrived on solemn grandeur of great wings,
the angelic ambassador, standing or hovering,
whom she acknowledges, a guest.
But we are told of meek obedience. No one mentions
The engendering Spirit
did not enter her without consent.
She was free
to accept or to refuse, choice
integral to humanness.
Aren’t there annunciations
of one sort or another
in most lives?
undertake great destinies,
enact them in sullen pride,
when roads of light and storm
open from darkness in a man or woman,
are turned away from
in dread, in a wave of weakness, in despair
and with relief.
Ordinary lives continue.
God does not smite them.
But the gates close, the pathway vanishes.
She had been a child who played, ate, slept
like any other child–but unlike others,
wept only for pity, laughed
in joy not triumph.
Compassion and intelligence
fused in her, indivisible.
Called to a destiny more momentous
than any in all of Time,
she did not quail,
a simple, ‘How can this be?’
and gravely, courteously,
took to heart the angel’s reply,
the astounding ministry she was offered:
to bear in her womb
Infinite weight and lightness; to carry
in hidden, finite inwardness,
nine months of Eternity; to contain
in slender vase of being,
the sum of power–
in narrow flesh,
the sum of light.
Then bring to birth,
push out into air, a Man-child
needing, like any other,
milk and love–
but who was God.
This was the moment no one speaks of,
when she could still refuse.
A breath unbreathed,
She did not cry, ‘I cannot. I am not worthy,’
Nor, ‘I have not the strength.’
She did not submit with gritted teeth,
Bravest of all humans,
consent illumined her.
The room filled with its light,
the lily glowed in it,
and the iridescent wings.
opened her utterly.
Reflection, 17 December 2017. (3rd Sunday of Advent)
To all of us, the grace to rejoice in who we are ‘in Christ’. For the last week, I have been staying in a brothers’ house situated in the grounds of one of our boarding schools and it is holiday time. Right now, I am distracted by a siren and the calls, “Evacuate!” and “Emergency!” coming from a nearby classroom block. There has been no sign of smoke or fumes in the hours since it began and it is well into the evening. The persistent noise invites me to think of John the Baptist and I note that the word ‘witness’ appears four times in the early verses of today’s gospel reading. He was being persistent and annoying, announcing something and someone ‘unknown’ and still to appear. ‘The light’ was and is coming into the dark places in and around us and I sense that our times need witnesses of integrity who know their place and their role of joyous proclamation, constant prayer and gratitude for all (including sirens with nothing new to say).
The mention of ‘light’ and the water of John’s baptism seem to be echoes of Moses and the Exodus which marks a new step in the evolving involvement of the Creator in human consciousness. A People could speak of being led from slavery towards a ‘promised land’ by a God who hears the cry of the poor and responds with power, tenderness and purpose. We speak of a further step with our Christmas stories of a baby named Joshua/Jesus who will lead the way into that ‘land’, a situation beyond our knowing and understanding and which incorporates the world we do know and much more.
I can imagine myself in that place in the past week (and before) as I do occasional jobs for and with some brothers here who require some tenderness and assistance. Perhaps a significant task is for me to ‘be happy at all times’ as St Paul says, especially with the Royal Commission’s report and more accusations of abuse being in the news. This might call for something more like being ‘witness speaking for the light’ and enabling a way which goes ‘straight for the Lord.’ The ‘emergency’ is still here in different forms and the call to ‘evacuate’ might be referring to old situations of slavery and limited ways of thinking.
May each of us grow as joyful witnesses for the Light both known and unknown in and around us.
Reflection, 10 December 2017. (2nd Sunday of Advent)
To all of us and our communities, the Comforting Spirit who inspires us to proclaim good news about Jesus, Cosmic Christ and God Incarnate. In the last week, I have engaged in several conversations echoing the call to carry out this essential aspect of being follower and servant. The dental assistant cleaning my teeth was quite happy to speak of matters of faith when she realised that I am a Christian brother and a shop assistant saw the cross I wear and spoke of the need for a spirituality which meets the troubles of these times. These brief encounters were followed on Thursday by a brothers’ conversation circle here in Brisbane where those in my group spoke in different ways of the Divine Presence in their lives. I sense a deep affirmation that the Spirit is indeed working amongst us and taking us as a group into new dimensions of life.
I came to Queensland to celebrate fifty years since I left home to join the Christian Brothers along with ten others celebrating various jubilees. One inspired and inspiring brother spoke briefly about all of us in turn and again I sensed being affirmed significantly that my ‘repentance for the forgiveness of sins’ has been Spirit-led and is pointing to aspects of the ‘new’ which is really a enlivening of the message of both John and Jesus. This, too, was reinforced when I enjoyed, with my sister and some of her friends, a performance of ‘The Messiah’ at QPAC later the same day. I read a commentary saying that the biblical meaning of ‘console’ or ‘comfort’ as in the first reading includes giving the ‘strength’ necessary to face the ordeals of the present. I can only give thanks to the ‘the Comforter’ for all the graces I have received and which will continue to flow as the ‘new’ unfolds within and around us.
John was taking metanoia out of the Temple to a sacred river in the wilderness and Jesus challenges us to be ‘in his Spirit’ as a Temple way of life. Some archaeologists consider that the first ‘temple’ constructed by humans is at Gobekli Tepe, a 22 acre site where hunter-gatherers erected sandstone monoliths and circles, like smaller versions of Stonehenge, on which they carved images of animals and which they buried, constructing more on top, most likely over hundreds of years. They lived in a fertile area and I imagine that they had ample ‘spare’ time to wonder about life and death. The construction seems to have begun about ten thousand years ago, 500 years before permanent settlements and the domestication of plants and animals. Now I imagine that it was their felt need to acknowledge Mystery in significant ways which opened them to new ways of living and participating in the natural world.
I hear echoes of this flow from reflection to each new evolutionary step in this reading at the beginning of Mark’s gospel where the cry is to acknowledge the coming of ‘the Lord’ and his Spirit. I sense a pattern which is at least ten thousand years old and which is repeating itself today for us who listen to and speak of Mystery unfolding here and now. I believe that, as we acknowledge our Creator in increasingly visible and public ways, then we will be shown the next step for us to take ‘for the sake of our common home.’
May each of us continue to be open to the strength of the Comforter as we proclaim, “Good News!”
Reflection, 3 December 2017. (1st Sunday of Advent)
To all of us, the grace to stay awake and aware of the Master Potter’s presence in all the circumstances of day and night. My little and larger worlds have been caught up in significant and, I trust, evolutionary ways in the last week. One older community member has been in our local hospital and is booked to move into aged care in a few days’ time. Our weather has reverted almost to winter with below average temperatures and a couple of days of rain giving us totals well above our December average. On Tuesday in Melbourne, I participated in the first of our listening circles involving the Edmund Rice Network with a focus on hopes and dreams for next year and beyond. I heard stories of religious sisters in Sudan and Tigre in the midst of local tensions and fighting. Some words from the readings staying with me include ‘integrity’, ‘trust’, ‘witness to Christ’ and the idea of invoking the ‘name’ of our faithful Father-Potter.
With Jesus telling me, “Stay awake!” I sense that integrity within our unfolding Universe involves watching out for the times when I lose touch with my inner centre where the peace of Christ allows me to participate as fully as possible in the Potter’s work here and now. The challenge is to trust that this work has been going on for billions of years and still involves turmoil, endings and new beginnings and that I and my communities do have tasks to perform as aware and committed servants. Perhaps some of these involve planting seeds which enrich lives ‘in so many ways’ as Paul says to the Corinthians.
I wonder about those who first learned to dig the soil, plant seeds and care for growing crops perhaps eight or nine thousand years ago. This was indeed a new beginning as humans lived into ways of interacting with nature and each other. The Potter was at work guiding their thoughts, experimenting and creativity as they ‘evolved’ over time from hunting and gathering to increasing reliance on domesticating plants and animals. Villages became larger and more permanent while increasing population spread into other corners of Earth. This seems to have happened on every continent (including Australia) where people were awake to a Spirit moving in and through their world. I suspect that it is enough to be alert here and now without knowing exactly what future is coming in the midst of today’s trials and tribulations.
May each of us wait patiently in our restlessness and grow in trust that seeds of possibility are being planted even as others bear fruit in and around us.
Reflection, 26 November 2017. (Christ the King)
To all of us, the blessings here and now of the self-giving love of our Cosmic Lord who incorporates us and even the power of death. I have been struggling for a few days find ways to describe how I might be in relationship with this Universe Being who knows my name, loves me and seems to desire that I participate in a Flow of Passion which is full of evolving life and intimacy. My latest sense is that Jesus, as human manifestation of Oneness, is the ‘Lord’ or enlivening Source of a single creative event which is mirrored in stories including those of Creation, of the Paschal Mystery, of my communities and of my life. Somehow he is present in the hungry and thirsty, in the stranger and the homeless, in the naked and abused, in the prisoner and enslaved, in the victims of climate change and war as well as in all the systems which feed, clothe and comfort us. Even the dimensions of compassion expand as we face choices in the changing circumstances of today’s world.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus is addressing ‘the nations’ and judging them on their treatment of his ‘sisters and brothers’ – the members of his family. Now I wonder how much this includes care of the soul as well as care of the body, of telling stories of encounter with the Divine and of our own faith journeys as ways of encouragement and affirmation. I sense my desire to be more like Christ in these ways as I go about mundane activities like vacuuming, cooking, filling in hoof-prints on the local race track or paying the parish bills as I have done in the last week. It cannot be business as usual as our temperatures at the same time here are well above average while rainfall is below average. The Jesus story still calls for sacrifice in terms of resources, comfort, energy and time ‘for the sake of our common home’ and this remains an aspect of what those ‘in him’ are required to do. The greatest witness may be to the indwelling Spirit who makes it possible and desirable to do so according to our inherent nature as created in Love’s image and likeness.
Love is about working so that all of creation comes to enjoy the fullness of existence which is ongoing transformation all the way to resurrection. I can only give thanks for the Spirit’s work in separating my inner sheep and goats including my fears of death and desires for life which can take me out of the present moment and into past or future. I pray that I can grow more in honouring this ‘Lord’ here and now with the radiant energies in my heart as well as my head directing all my acts of kindness, big and small.
May each of us grow in awareness of the Shepherd standing in our midst and caring intimately and infinitely that we participate fully in the Flow of self-giving Vitality.
Reflection, 19 November 2017. (Mt 25:14-30)
To all of us, the wisdom to use wisely that which is valuable in the Master’s Realm. I have just been at a gathering in Melbourne to celebrate EarthSong which has been terminated after many years of activities and 25 journal editions of bringing people together in search of ‘ancient wisdom for new times.’ We have much more to learn about this dimension of the Creator’s property entrusted to us and this was an occasion of sadness that something worthwhile has finished as well as of hope in the Spirit who will see the work continue in new ways. I wonder if there are ‘valuables’ which have been ‘hidden in the ground’ and are now being returned and given to those who have worked so well and joyfully.
The gathering began with a ‘welcome to country’ by a local Indigenous man who spoke of what it is to be a true ‘elder’ who is recognised by his people as one who is trusted and who knows the lore associated with his country. He has walked in the suffering as well as the celebrations of those who ‘belong to the land’ and I imagine this to be a process of initiation, official and unofficial, which has been evolving in this part of our planet for over sixty thousand years. He and his ancestors have been able to read much of what has been ‘hidden’ in creation and I wonder how much they have to teach us about what it is to be ‘good and faithful servants’ in these times of many different forms of abuse – of attempts to keep things out of sight and to be in control of ‘my land’ and ‘my way’ of living.
Jesus’ parable tells of a servant who lived in fear of a ‘hard’ task master and hid what he had been given. This may be referring to people like the priests, scribes and Pharisees of his day who ‘hid’ the essence of the Torah and YHWH’s covenant relationship with Israel – who were ‘good for nothing’ and not initiating anyone into fullness of life. I wonder how much we in the Church are ‘hiding’ things of Kingdom-value such as Mercy, being ‘in Christ’, the joy of the Gospel, the Paschal Mystery, contemplation and creation, our primary scripture. Without the essentials of this Realm in our own lives, we too may be ‘good for nothing’ until we encounter our gentle and compassionate ‘task master’ who commands love and seems to give everyone something different to treasure and to grow.
When I ask myself what I may be hiding, I think of feelings, of fearful behaviour and of hopes and dreams of how the Spirit seems to be moving in and around me. All of these were challenged during the week in a conversation with another brother who recommended that I be more proactive with regard to my thinking and dreaming and I can imagine that I have been given these hopes and plans as my contribution to the evolution of a much larger living process. They are valuable and they will change and grow ‘in the light’ and in interactions with other valuables. So continues my initiation into being ‘good for something’ in the Realm of Oneness.
May each of us share more and more of our Master’s happiness as we participate faithfully in expanding and evolving Cosmic Life.
Reflection, 12 November 2017. (Mt 25:1-13)
To all of us, growing intimacy with Wisdom who reveals how to live in Love. In the last few days and weeks, I have been looking back over my life and giving thanks for the many manifestations of the feminine who have guided and encouraged me. As I read these descriptions of ‘lady Wisdom’ and of the ten bridesmaids, I give thanks for a deeper and unseen Presence who is still working in and through others as well as in me to reveal each little step in the coming to full life of our unfolding, expanding and evolving Universe – the Cosmic Christ. At the end of the Gospel passage, it seems to be a matter of knowing and being known and I suspect that it one and the same to be in relationship with the men, women and children of our lives as it is to be in an intimate relationship with Jesus. I suspect, too, that the delight and peace I can sometimes feel inside myself come from his feelings of love and affection flowing through others to me and that they flow through me to others.
I have just participated in a brothers’ spirituality circle where we shared something of our grieving (especially with the child abuse issue in the background) and something of our desiring. I sense my own loss of the feminine in my childhood when my mother died and now I wonder how much that is a reflection of a collective loss of ‘lady Wisdom’ throughout much of the institutional church, including us Christian Brothers. The foolish bridesmaids did not ‘know’ the groom (most likely a member of their extended family) or the requirements, expectations and processes of a wedding ritual and he had little opportunity to know them. My desire is to ‘know the Groom’ and wisdom says that it requires time (daily), effort, singlemindedness, being prepared and paying whatever cost is necessary to go with him. This can happen in a community who share the longing for and the joy of the wedding celebration.
I read that about seventy thousand years ago, Earth began a cycle of glaciation, of ice ages, which has been in recession for the last eighteen thousand years. During this time, Homo sapiens have been adapting to different geographical and environmental conditions – and finding reason to celebrate the mystery and wonder of being in relationship with land and lifeforms. I have returned home from the brothers’ gathering with a new province document outlining how we might proceed in attempting to slow down and even reverse global warming. My first thought is that we will need ‘lady Wisdom’ and the Spirit of the Creator to teach and guide us and then I wonder if we can admit to and grieve being ‘locked out’ like the foolish bridesmaids. This loss may be at the root of our addictions and abusive behaviour towards each other and towards ‘mother nature’.
Homo sapiens have migrated out of Africa and made homes all around our planet. The new places for us to explore have much more to do with Wisdom as multiculturalism becomes the norm and its requirements, expectations and processes call for creativity as well as sacrifices involving humility, intimacy and interdependence.
May each of us be awake as the ‘Lady’ of every day and every hour comes with her own peace, joy and lighted lamp.
Reflection, 5 November 2017. (Mt 23:1-12)
To all of us, the grace-filled humility to be ‘weaned children’ whose lives reveal the Holy One’s compassion for all. One commentary I read this week, written by a woman, highlighted the image in the Psalm of the one on its mother’s breast who has been through the ‘suffering’ of being weaned and who remains faithful and returns to find a different comfort from the one whose love is manifested in the painful process. I can imagine the mother ‘lifting the finger’ many times as she helps the little one to ‘carry’ this necessary and life-enhancing burden and how this might be a description of anyone ‘in Christ’ who is the manifestation of our Mother God. Perhaps this is what Paul, in the second reading, refers to as the ‘living power’ at work carrying those who believe into a mature and full life.
Another commentary suggests how the child sexual abuse situation is an echo of the first reading where the leaders of YHWH’s people have not followed the Creator’s way, have caused many to stumble and have been ‘cursed’ – bringing shame on themselves – and I imagine it is because they have not been ‘weaned’ into a mature faith in the One who is Lord, Father and Teacher. They avoid discomfort, remain dependent and addicted, exalt themselves and pay the price. Leaders today have the opportunity to humble themselves, seek Mercy and grow as interdependent servants, witnessing to and proclaiming Good News.
My own experiences this week have included vacuuming the guest house, reading a scripture passage for our prayer service in the Yea cemetery on All Souls day, meeting with others to prepare for a gathering of brothers next Sunday where we will share something of our faith in small groups, and shepherding a group of retreatants on an hour’s walk in the local forest. Even with these opportunities to serve, I consider that I am still being weaned from my fears and resentments in ways that hold both the pain and the peace of following Jesus’ way. Perhaps the most humble and servant-like thing to do is give thanks for these surprising gifts which offer so much more Life.
The weaning of Homo sapiens from animal instincts of survival to the learned ability to give thanks has been going on for at least two hundred thousand years and has received significant impetus from climate change. Another change factor for modern Homo sapiens in the last forty thousand years may have been the growth in the size of population groups which has increased the sharing of new ideas and given us more cause for wonder and creativity. Jesus has come with notions of faith and love which point to new dimensions of what it is to be fully alive and in tune with the Sacred Unity of Creation. The process is ongoing and I can only give thanks for my growing awareness of participating in it here and now, knowingly, unknowingly and often with resistance.
May each of us evolve through the power of Love’s message into lives of faith, joy and peace that children of all ages are able to imitate.
Reflection, 29 October 2017. (Mt 22:34-40)
To all of us, the fullest possible participation in the flow of Love through, in and around us. In the last few weeks, I have been enjoying various encounters with our local wildlife, especially the birds but also the wallabies and an echidna, and reflecting on how they go about their business according to their innate natures. Now I reflect on the innate nature of me and my communities which Jesus and others recognise as love for Creator, for neighbour and for self. Our local region has had below average rainfall which has been sufficient to keep most vegetation very much alive, fresh and with many shades of green even as the top slopes of many hills are turning brown. We humans today seem to be stepping into a new awareness of our responsibility to participate in this One Love which includes the processes and cycles of all life and its evolution, including our own.
The challenge for me is to participate in Love with all my heart, soul and mind – all of me, and of my communities. I sense a call to the ongoing work of bringing into (near) balance my efforts to grow and develop my relationships with my ‘self’ with its emerging potentials, with the neighbours whom I am to serve and with the Source and Power who commands me to follow Jesus, incarnate Oneness. Part of me just wants to be doing things which make the world a better place and I can feel frustrated when I seem to be failing to do so. Perhaps my more significant calling is to allow the healing Spirit to free my heart-brain so that I can continue to grow into living fully – and to accept the ‘crosses’ which seem to be essential elements in these deeper processes.
St Paul in the second reading links the spread of ‘the word of the Lord’ with the joy of the Spirit in the midst of suffering and opposition. A small group of us enjoyed making a contribution to the developing Edmund Rice project at Mt Atkinson on Tuesday when we gathered a few loads of tree branches which young people can use later to make basic shelters and also walked through one of the paddocks plotting possible bike tracks for future use. We were doing something practical and I was aware also of the warm sun and the forecast of a warmer and drier summer and its potential for bushfires both in the long grass there and in the forests near home. We were being true to our human nature of contributing in hope to a greater good even as we recognise the enormous challenge of empowering others to change their hearts and minds in these times of global warming and much more.
The fully alive person, as Jesus is, knows that it takes time to evolve and to accept that the cross is the way to new life. A huge step occurred perhaps six or seven million years ago when some of our ancestors, through circumstances of climate change, were blessed with the necessary genetic mutations which enabled them to walk upright. The ‘trial and error’ of creation continued as hands then became free for a great variety of uses, brain size increased, eyes and hands worked together, and our abilities of tool making and art developed. All of this calls for us to bring ‘heart, soul and mind’ to the processes as they continue today towards a future built on the past and beyond our imagining. This ‘Law’ is written in the matter of the Universe and the prophets continue to point out to us that we are servants of Mystery within a great plan.
May each of us enjoy more and more of the always surprising and evolving Life of the Holy One whose love for us involves the heart, soul and mind of the Cosmic Christ.
Reflection, 22 October 2017. (Mt 22:15-21)
To all of us, the wisdom of the big picture where everything belongs in Sacred Unity. Jesus stays centred on his mission of Love and is even ready to call those with malice and resentment in their hearts ‘Hypocrites!’ He is inviting them into honesty and repentance even as he knows that their ‘herd’ mentality will prevent them changing their ways. He can see how antagonism fits into the overall plan of the Creator for the unfolding and evolution of Universe and Kingdom. He would have them (and us) grow from ‘either-or’ to ‘both-and’ – to the maturity of the servant and disciple who sees the Spirit moving in all circumstances, even taxes and death.
I can imagine that the malice of those Pharisees and Herodians might come from their anger at not being the real authorities in their lands because of the Romans and also at YHWH for not coming and fulfilling the promise that Israel would be the Light to the Nations (and Ruler of All). They did not want to lose their positions of influence and potential high offices because of ‘messiahs’ like Jesus who might lead the people in another direction. They were blind to Mercy’s Presence among them. I can only give thanks for the graces which help me see beyond my own moments of anger, especially in the last week as my plans and hopes had to change on a daily basis because of community needs, travelling on the Hume Freeway at about 2k/hr for twenty minutes for road works, shopping items sold out and missing from shelves and my ordering the wrong item in an on-line purchase. Some of my frustration was aimed at the Spirit and then I wonder how much it is about me learning at deepening levels to let go and to trust that all these episodes contribute to my evolving as a fully alive follower and servant.
Jesus’ challenge is to see that suffering, death and even extinctions belong in this Universe. Some of this is self-inflicted (like my not seeing things on a shopping list) and some seems random like the meteorite which seems to have been a most significant factor in the demise of dinosaurs which in turn created space for mammals to grow and diversify. Those angry at the threat posed by Jesus and most if not all of us today wish to avoid and deny these violent and degrading eventualities and be in control of our destinies. I have just read a reminder of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s notions about the Omega point and participating in the process of future unity unfolding here and now. There is inevitability about New Creation and old patterns giving way to beings of greater complexity beyond our imagining and wisdom. Jesus is the sacrament of honouring all the demands of the sacrifice and self-giving explicit for those who are ‘in Christ’ and sharing his vision. I pray that I and my communities continue to evolve in tune with this Spirit.
Part of my frustration with Mystery is that I have a vague sense of being chosen as Paul says in the second reading and I do not know what for. Perhaps this is where my faith, hope and love are being tested and purified as I am given multiple opportunities to repent and to rejoice gratefully in the many blessing of every day while I dare to believe in a future of resurrection revealing itself in and around me.
May each of us grow and evolve as unique and fully alive human beings giving our whole lives to our Creator in complete and joyful obedience.
Reflection, 15 October 2017. (Mt 22:1-14)
To all of us, the joy and thrill of dancing at the Wedding. A Wedding is not about the farm or violence or business as usual – it is celebrating a new union and relationship of one with an Other. To go to a wedding is to acknowledge Mystery unfolding beyond one’s power and to participate in some way in the commitment being made. I suspect that this is what the ‘wedding garment’ affirms and that to attend without the appropriate dress is to be self-centred, unsocial and a betrayal of what it is to be human. ‘The man was silent’ and already bound up within himself by his refusal to love. Then his outer reality came to match his inner state.
I have just attended a regional meeting of our brothers with some members of our provincial leadership team who reported on congregational matters and then on upcoming changes to living allowances to communities. I came away feeling somewhat frustrated when some of those who have chosen to live by themselves spoke strongly about their concerns that they may have less to live on. Then I read the gospel again and wondered with a smile if this was an example of the ‘weeping and grinding of teeth’ of the ones who are ‘outside in the dark’ where they have put themselves. Now I ask myself about my own grumblings and what they might tell me of when I am refusing to be inside Love and Mercy instead of joining in the dancing and the feast of Oneness.
Over two hundred years ago, our mammalian ancestors were the first creatures to experience that oneness of mother and her child in the womb which extended into years of care for the newborn. I am regularly touched at the sight of young mammals exploring their abilities and their world with playfulness and delight. It speaks to me of a sense of trust and wonder which may be inherent in us humans and which may be another expression of the ‘wedding garment’ appropriate for dancing in the Spirit of Christ whose heart and mind we share when we choose to do so – a garment of joy and excitement as we try out new steps (no more ‘business as usual’) in committed, life-long relationships. All of this can only echo the Creator’s delight, commitment and care for each and every entity within our expanding and evolving Universe.
I enjoyed a different experience of happy engagement on Saturday when I helped set up tables and urns and then cooked dozens of sausages for a barbeque lunch at the conclusion of a fund-raising fun-run and bike ride in Yea. I had made a contribution to the immediate wellbeing of those who had been on the trail, to the atmosphere of glad accomplishment and to the benefits which will flow later to needy rural children. So much is possible with ‘the help of the One who gives strength’ as St Paul says in the second reading and I can only give thanks that I accepted the offered garment.
May each of us respond to Mystery’s invitations with joyful anticipation, put on the appropriate attire and dance with delight in honour of One Love.
Reflection, 8 October 2017. (Mt 21:33-43)
To all of us, the intoxicating wine of our Creator’s vineyard. I wonder about the work of producing the fruits of this ‘garden’ and I look to Jesus as the primary worker and as the one in which all of us participate in keeping it going. Perhaps the key, the ‘keystone’, involves the call to honour the landlord, rejection, the spilling of blood (of ‘grapes trampled into wine’) and the power of Sacred Unity to amaze us with new life and Resurrection. St Paul tells of the God of peace being with us as we work ‘in Christ’ and it must be an exceedingly deep, inner peace which carries him and us through the turmoil and suffering – and which intoxicates in the best way possible.
I give thanks for the tastes of this ‘wine’ which enlivens me and increases my longing for more. When I can remember these thoughts, they give me more on which to reflect at Mass and include Paul’s list in today’s second reading. There are times when I can recall what is true, good, pure and blessing and there are occasions when the peace is disturbed by my anger and frustration. It seems as though the more I come to know others through living in community or in work situations, the disturbances increase in number and intensity. I thank the Spirit for the deepening peace which empowers me to switch more quickly to thanksgiving and prayer for both the other and myself. I seem to be growing in awareness of my own addictions with their past and future orientation and the struggle to switch to the spontaneity of this Eucharistic drink in each present moment.
I have been reading a few pages about Thérèse of Lisieux in the last few days and I see the Spirit at work when I read that she grew in love through her efforts to deal with her reactions to other sisters in the convent. This was her ‘little way’ and encourages me to persevere with thanksgiving, trusting that ‘the Lord’s doing’ will grow peace in and around me. The blessings from this ‘Little Flower’ might mirror the benefits of flowering plants in creation over the past possibly 250 million years: for soil through symbiotic relationships; for insects; for animals which eat flowers, fruits and the insects which depend on them; and for us humans through their beauty and diversity and our uses of them including for medicines and fuel. It is suggested that early primates evolved hands and improved sight in their efforts to reach these prizes in the three-dimensional world of trees.
The stories of Jesus and of the Universe tell of the incorporation of death into the processes of evolving life even as the killing of the landowner’s son outside the vineyard depicts the more common and ancient ‘culture of death’ which serves the status quo of the few. Yet even here Sacred Unity works to create Resurrection when servants remain faithful to their true nature.
May each of us grow in the wisdom of the vineyard and participate more deeply in producing and sharing its joyful and addictive blessings.
Reflection, 1 Oct 2017. (Mt 21:28-32)
To all of us, success in the work of cultivating the mind and heart of Jesus the Cosmic Christ. Sometimes I see myself like the first son and on other occasions I seem to like the second son. When I reflect on what the work in the vineyard might be, I remember Jesus’ words about proclaiming the Good News and passages like today’s second reading. In our expanding and evolving Universe, the work too evolves as new dimensions arise with existing elements combining and forming the foundation of ‘new creation’. The essence of Love, of emptying oneself as Jesus does in becoming a ‘slave’, a humbled worker, remains the same while we are awakened to new dimensions of what ‘other people’s interests’ are in these times of global warming, consumerism and self-centredness.
Ultimately, these interests are mine as well and I give thanks that the most significant one for me has been to encounter Mercy. The work of the vineyard is still to be witness to forgiveness, a witness who is grateful, joyful and becoming more and more ‘fully’ alive. I sense this when I can laugh at myself for my moments of anger, resentment and fear which keep popping up when I see the TV news or meet others who seem imprisoned in old patterns of thought and action. My work becomes opening up to the Love’s presence and trusting that I can be an instrument of healing and blessing – a slave ‘in Christ’ sharing his mission and burdens.
The king parrots, galahs and crimson rosellas are not appearing for breakfast nearly as frequently now that spring is getting a hold. When a pair of the parrots are sitting on my hands and eating, it becomes a less significant version of the vineyard work of nourishing neighbours and companions and it reminds me to live in the present moment, not thinking of what else I could be doing. I can consider that Australia may be the birth place of the world’s birdsong, parrots and pigeons and that human language may have begun with our ancestors mimicking the sounds of birds, developing the necessary physiology and allowing expression of delight and desire. Combining this ability with another from other animals who signalled things like intention and direction may have been the evolving foundation of my being able to ‘talk to’ these visitors and even to imagine what they may be communicating to each other and to me. Perhaps part of the work is to keep developing in communicating with the Divine and to share this with others so that our coming together is another step in new creation.
If it is true that I am a microcosm of the Universe, I wonder what that means and I marvel each time the Spirit communicates affirmation and the sense of my being ‘in tune’ with the essential song of Creation with its themes of emptying, being slave and acknowledging Jesus as Lord and Cosmic One.
May eachl of us grow more like the first son, the tax collectors and the prostitutes who change their minds and believe what both John the Baptist and Jesus are saying to us.
Reflection, 24 September 2017. (Mt 20:1-16)
To all of us, growing trust in the absolute generosity of our Cosmic Christ. Last week, I was on retreat and come away with a renewed sense of being hired to work ‘in the vineyard’ in ways I cannot imagine until they happen. For me, it may be well into the ‘afternoon’ but the landowner is still searching for workers and there is much to be done. A primary focus of the retreat was that of our wounds – at the level of individuals, congregation and creation – and the blessings which they offer to those who open themselves to the Spirit. I suspect that one aspect of the job now and into the future will be opening our hearts to the Cosmic One who empties himself, humbles himself – and us ‘in Christ’ – and guiding our neighbours along the same way.
In today’s homily, we heard that it requires faith to sign up for this work ‘at 5pm’ when there seems little chance of reward as we think human thoughts about wages. Perhaps another dimension of the work involves learning to seek the Creator’s thoughts and ways and growing in the trust which allows them to be realised. During the retreat, we were reminded about our Founder, Edmund Rice, and his journey of suffering and faith, and we considered his charism which has been described as ‘opening his heart to Christ present and appealing in the poor’. He was one who went beyond human thinking and acting, was humbled in his old age by his brothers and left us with the notion that ‘Providence is our inheritance.’ I felt a joyful affirmation at today’s Mass when singing, “. . . Open my heart, Lord; . . ” as I had been singing it to myself a few days ago as a prayer with increasing intent.
My contribution to our retreat’s concluding ritual was to lead the group in a process of blessing and healing. In turn, we called our neighbour by name, asked, “What do you want?” and anointed the offered hands. I felt humbled and joyful to ask for wholeness and healing from the Spirit of my Lord, Jesus Christ. My leading of this part of the ritual was a deepening of my belief that I can be a person of blessing (not disaster) and that my heart is opening further to allow Life to flow through me. I had been reflecting on the idea of ‘second half of life spirituality’ and became excited when I altered a word and it became ‘second half of life brotherhood’ where we go beyond the wonderful acts of service in the way of physical and emotional comfort and include sharing support, woundedness and our various attempts to be fully alive with the ability to laugh at ourselves.
It seems from Jesus’ parable that it is never too late to bring our gifts to this work and to share the task of our common ‘landowner’ in bringing others to Life. I wondered about the gift which dinosaurs give and how the extinction of most of them about 66 million years ago made space for the mammals who may have survived by eating their dead cousins through and beyond the calamity. Then I thought how we are still eating their descendants, especially chooks, and enjoying so much birdsong. The great gift of the Spirit will endure in many forms and I am blessed to receive so much and to be an instrument of its Flow.
May each of us open our eyes and hearts to the Mystery whose generosity is always surprising.
Reflection, 17 Sept 2017. (Mt 18:21-35)
To all of us, the wisdom to honour ourselves as alive with the image and likeness of Mercy. In my simple and developing understanding of ‘forgiveness’ as understood by the Jews of Jesus’ day, I consider the notion that the most valuable attribute was honour which could be given and taken away (not monetary wealth as in our culture). In Jesus’ parable, the king has great wealth, great honour and, at least in part, it accumulates because he is merciful and he honours others, even debtors, desiring that they live to their full potential. He can lose ‘honour’ when his subjects fail to live according to the highest ideals (even commandments) of his realm – as did the first servant who is then ‘tortured’ until he can honour the king rightfully as subject. Perhaps his torturers are his unrecognised shame and guilt disturbing his desires for power, privilege and position.
I wonder how much my addictions are about suppressing my ‘torturers’ – including the deep rage which emerges occasionally, reminding me that hurt and suffering are inherent in evolving creation and that there is a great Love desiring to flow through me if I will allow it. I have been growing in awareness of this in the last week as I take my sister’s dog for a daily walk and find that there are times when his plans and mine do not match. I feel less ‘tortured’ when I honour his truthfulness to being ‘dog’ and the privilege I have to provide the opportunity for him to do so. His wagging tail tells me that I have a friend and I consider that the equivalent for me includes my gratitude to our Creator.
I remind myself that evolution takes time when I think that the first reptiles, with their mutational step of the amniotic egg, were small and inconspicuous animals for millions of years before a small ice age and extinctions provided the stimulus to move into new territory and to grow in size. Their gift included internal fertilisation and mini adults breaking out of their shells ready to fend for themselves. They honoured their gifts in different ways as some passed on their new forms to later generations, refined and updated all the way over 310 million years or so to us mammals. I sense a challenge to honour the ongoing process and work of Sacred Mystery by committing consciously to internal fertilisation in my heart-brain and to adult responsibility as servant of Mercy and creativity, the nutrients of the Great Egg replacing the limitations of my small, tight enclosure.
I saw the movie ‘Victoria and Abdul’ on Friday and it spoke to me of how relationships can work to break open the restrictions of routine and frustration and allow joyful new life to emerge. Even between this queen and her Muslim servant there were elements of risk, vulnerability and some lack of honesty (echoes of Jesus and Peter) as well as comfort and encouragement. They could honour each other’s humanity with their frailties and beauty and each could evolve towards their inner truth.
May each of us be open to evolving relationships, inner and outer, where we honour ourselves as emerging servants of Love and Mercy.
Reflection, 10 September 2017. (Mt 18:15-20)
To all of us, the grace of reconciliation within ourselves and our communities. I have very little experience of the processes described in this Gospel passage and I wonder how much our fear of using them has resulted in the dwindling numbers in our churches and in religious life as well as in our history of abuses. As I look back to occasions when I might have ‘gone and had it out with another’, I recall my feelings of fear and unworthiness. Now I wonder how much the deeper reason might be that I had no felt sense of Jesus present in community gatherings of ‘two or three’ or more and him calling us to be sentries like Ezekiel. We still have much to learn – through experience – about love of neighbour and self.
Jesus’ challenge seems to be that we come to agreement and then pray for that explicitly. I suspect that the essential element will be to agree with him and his commandments such as loving the Father, all neighbours and one’s self. The dialogues will be the building blocks of relationships which focus on ‘other’ and, these days, on our common home. I do not recall any occasion when I have engaged in a process like this whether it has originated in dispute or out of shared concern. There have been lots of ‘Lord, hear our prayer!’ with little appreciation of immediate issues. Perhaps the sin of our times is that we bring dishonour on ourselves, our communities and church by not living ‘in Christ’ with awareness of our role of ‘binding’ into one and ‘loosening’ from fear and shame. I wonder what the Ezekiels of today are being appointed to say to our gatherings.
On Saturday, I delighted to attend an auction, with a starting bid of 1.1 million dollars, for a house which my niece finally bought. Her husband is overseas at the moment so she accepted the responsibility of bidding. When the excitement had settled down and she was saying how grateful she was for the purchase of their desired property, I suggested that she thank our Creator for the blessings which enabled them to afford it and for the outcome. I sense that reminding others of the Source of All may be a vital part of reclaiming our essential faith where we trust the flow of grace to and through us in the mystery of Love.
That flow has been happening throughout all creation and I thought of the situation of the beginnings of forests when ‘two or three’ and more of the first trees might have been growing near each other on a flood plain or coastal lowland and their combined canopies began altering their micro-environment. More shade moderated temperature and improved the situation for microbes and invertebrates which worked to increase and improve soils so that roots could go deeper and trees grow bigger and spread further. The outcomes may have included wild fires as well as the beginnings of the coal deposits which provide us with energy. There is much for which we give thanks and much for consideration in our conversations and efforts for agreement as we explore Mystery.
May each of us make many more contributions as we dialogue together in exploring the unknown in the name and spirit of the Cosmic Christ.
Reflection, 3 September 2017. (Mt 16:21-27)
To all of us in this ‘Season of Creation’, the grace to see and think with our Creator’s Wisdom. In their joint message (last Friday), Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew speak of the importance of prayer and its ability to change the way we perceive the world and our ways of relating to it. Jesus expects Peter to evolve his thinking about the Messiah and to appreciate the process of suffering, death and Resurrection – ‘new creation’ as Paul calls it. In today’s second reading, Paul too speaks of ‘new mind’ and of discovering the will of God so that we know what to do. Our actions might include Jeremiah’s howling and proclaiming, “Violence and destruction!” as we hear of floods, droughts, ethnic cleansing and more. I suspect that the most important ingredient will be the ‘fire burning in our hearts and bones’ and our willingness to be seduced and overpowered by this dimension of our true Self.
Some new views for me in the last week have included those from the AirWalk out across treetops and rivers and from several lookouts around Hobart. I visited the town of Richmond and viewed the model showing Old Hobart Town in the early 1820’s when some of my English ancestors lived in the area. Later, I walked along Hobart Rivulet which features in the model and wondered how it may have looked for thousands of years before Europeans arrived – a source of fresh water for wildlife and the Indigenous people who cared for that land in all its aspects, including themselves. Within twenty years, a brewery, several tanneries and a flour mill appeared and the growing town downstream turned the flow into a sewer. This was a different way of seeing and thinking with the human as primary and limited focus. Jesus’ call is still for us to ‘deny ourselves’ and to follow him into life which includes even the cross.
On Saturday evening, when I was back in Glenburn, our extended community celebrated a couple of birthdays at the local Chinese restaurant. The conversations included talk of addiction and problems in relationships as well as other challenges around the world. I have been reflecting how this is about excluding much of the cross of life just as Peter had his own ideas about what was right and proper for Jesus and himself. Jesus calls him ‘satan’ which can mean ‘accuser’ and one who tests the genuineness of another’s thinking. Sometimes I can catch this ‘devil’s advocate’ in me telling me that I am right to avoid suffering and to find comfort in my addictions. I suspect that I may be dowsing that inner fire of heart and bone when I do so and fail to think ‘in Christ’. I pray in thanks for this realisation and for the peace and joy which I do find in my heart on other occasions.
Following Jesus then becomes for me a journey into this heart-place of fire, joy and deep peace. In some ways it is me ‘evolving’ into the fullness of my life and its Mystery. Earlier stages of this process include the steps from fish to tetrapod to amphibian and all the mutations – crosses – which saw fins become limbs with elbows and knees, flexibility from new neck vertebrae, air bladders become lungs, and many more which enabled survival and then thriving in new environments. So it is with the new ‘environment’ of Jesus’ realm where I wonder how much I am surviving and how much I am beginning to thrive as my ‘thinking’ comes more from my heart-brain and spontaneity increases. I cannot imagine what other boundaries I will be called to cross if I can keep opening up whenever I do close down.
May each of us allow the Spirit of evolving Creation to burn ever more brightly in our hearts, bones and actions for the sake of our common home.
Reflection, 27 August 2017. (Mt 16:13-20)
To all of us, the ongoing and evolving revelation of Jesus as Cosmic Christ. I hear regularly the notion that ‘hell’ is living in the ‘lie’ or ‘myth’ of separation: that there are barriers between ‘us’ and ‘others’ (including Other), that there are situations where ‘some’ do not belong. In Jesus’ realm, especially his ‘church’ family, the truth of complete inclusion seems to be a notion that grows slowly as we see in Peter who is beginning to ‘get it’ and who will lose it on many occasions – but not entirely. He is becoming the prime example of the ‘repenting one’ who holds onto the hope that Jesus is the faithful and forgiving friend in all occasions. There are indeed ‘gates’ in the prison-walls which are his bluster and fears and which do not prevail when Love is knocking.
I read, also, that in the culture of the time (and still today) individuals learnt their identity from their family and village and that all people from a village like Nazareth or Capernaum would grow up with certain similar characteristics. It could be that Jesus put his questions to the apostles as part of his search for affirmation that his identity was not limited to one location but was all-inclusive. He was affirmed by the answer and called Peter to continue on the journey into his own new and greater identity – as he does to all of us. I suspect that some significant elements of the search include a growing relationship with Jesus and venturing to new places both inner and outer.
I have been visiting different places in the last week as I spend time in Hobart as brother and tourist. I have been to MONA, Russell Falls and harbour-side markets as well as meeting my cousin whose husband is not well. As I attempt to be ‘in Christ’, I can only trust that new places in my heart are opening to Mercy and Light and that all is included in ‘the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God’ as Paul says in the second reading. Some of my feelings of deeper peace might result from purchases from market stalls while much comes from other soul-gifts.
It seems as though life on Earth has ‘always’ been about venturing to new and different places, including the great adventure from the depths of the seas to dry land – according to creation’s inherent Wisdom. A research project reports fossilised arthropod footprints from about 530 million years ago as early centipedes explored sand dunes before returning to the watery homes. Over the following 50 million or so years, insects evolved with the ability to be at home on land and after another 50 or 60 million years were able to take to the skies. I like the comment which said that these creatures have influenced all parts of our common home and were the first to form social groups, to farm and to sing. I wonder what unimagined gifts will come from the faithfulness of me and my communities to Wisdom’s journey.
May each of us grow more and more open to the Living Gift present in and around us here and now.
Reflection, 20 August 2017. (Mt 15:21-28)
To all of us, the faith to persist into new understandings of incarnate Love. One commentary reminded me that only on a couple of occasions did Jesus change his mind and that it was women who brought it about. I can imagine him thinking about the big picture of ‘the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ who were spread around the local regions – because that is what I find easy to do. Perhaps it is the here-and-now focus of mothers for their children, families and neighbours who invite him to ‘look again’ and see what is right in front of him and calling for attention. This is the heart-brain at work, seeing and believing that compassion makes a difference – brings healing and wholeness. This is what is not so easy for me.
The reading from Isaiah describes the house of the Holy One being ‘a house of prayer’ and invited me to consider how much the dialogue between Jesus, the Canaanite mother and the disciples is an example of praying, where prayer is about deepening one’s understanding of the True Self. The woman seems to have come to a deeper faith through hearing about Jesus before seeking him out. The disciples have their own request with a mixture of faith and frustration and they are given a glimpse of what Jesus’ realm is about – that it moves beyond fear and prejudice to include everyone equally. Perhaps for him it is a matter of appreciating what it looks like when Yahweh’s Chosen fulfil their role as Light to the nations. Listening and faithfulness do make a difference in pictures both great and small.
My own experiences of listening in the last week have included an introduction to the role of Parish Treasurer and, in another conversation, to hopes and dreams concerning the Yea parish as those attending Mass become fewer in number and as the same occurs in local parishes of other denominations (and as others become aware of the 2020 Plenary Council). Perhaps the Spirit is calling all Christians to a renewed faithfulness to the Christ and his mission, especially in the face of a variety of threats to our common home. People still need to hear about Jesus and to enter into conversations with him which include deep listening, compassion, persistence and humility. I pray that I grow ‘in him’ – in his relationship to Abba, to heart and to his work here-and-now.
The pattern of something new beginning with one individual seems to apply to Earth’s plant life, according to researchers. Possibly 1.6 billion years ago, one green alga swallowed a cyanobacterium (like an internal solar-plant) without rejecting or absorbing it and, with the help of a parasite, food and energy could be transferred and shared. Over a billion years and many mutations later, its descendants in the forms of mosses and liverworts began to colonise dry land. Their growth, evolution and death reduced levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and brought about episodes of ‘snowball Earth’, mass extinctions and room for new possibilities both in the seas and on land. Different and even seemingly insignificant life-forms can come together, relate and enter into dialogue in ways that produce unimagined changes and consequences.
May each of us grow in faithfulness to our mission in the Cosmic Christ in every encounter inviting greater complexity and participation in Mystery.
Reflection, 13 Aug 2017. (Mt 14:22-33)
To all of us, the faith to walk through the storms, winds and waves with hearts fixed on Jesus the Christ. “The last question gives you all the answers.” These were among the last words spoken by my brother-in-law before his ‘death’ and passing to the next stage of life. A small crowd which I joined were reminded of them on Tuesday evening at the launch of his latest (and final) book in his series ‘About Bioethics’ in which he raises many questions and not so many answers about faith, science and the environment. He was one who did keep his heart and mind fixed on the Word as he taught and wrote with honesty and integrity while ‘walking’ through ongoing storms in his own health and offering his words about unhealthy disturbances in societies and in nature.
“What are you doing here, Elijah?” is a question omitted from our version of today’s first reading which is part of the story of the prophet running away from corrupt rulers and to the Holy One who sent him. My brother-in-law would have had his own clear answer to this question, an answer forged in silence and in explorations with family, friends and colleagues. I suspect that his answer, like mine, would have changed over the years and become more focussed on the faith which enables us to get out of the boat when Jesus says, “Come!” As I wonder what I am really doing in this stage of my life, I consider that I am here to learn that the Creator is indeed present in the sound of silence or of the gentle breeze much more than in mighty winds, cyclones, earthquakes, fires and floods, and to believe more in his power to calm all storms both in and around me.
One such storm concerns child abuse, in particular by members of our church, congregation and province. I attended a gathering of brothers today to hear and reflect on how we are being disturbed and how we might respond now and in the next few years. We sense the call to be more brother-like to victims and to each other and I suspect that this will be life-giving when we acknowledge and walk through our own personal and shared storms into the peace and joy of seeing Jesus in our boat. Then we will have something worthwhile to offer in the storms gathering and raging in wars and posturing, in violence and slavery, in addictions and low self-esteem and in so much more.
Well over four hundred million years ago, a primordial fungus ‘learnt’ through mutations to survive desiccation, UV light and limited nutrients in its rocky home as it became the first life on land, out of the sea, in a completely different environment. Not only did it survive but it triggered the processes which resulted in the soils on which life on land depends. Creation is about finding a way forward with unforeseen blessings at every step of the journey; the storms are moments of possibility in and through the Cosmic Christ.
May each of us who are of little faith and big doubts continue to walk into winds and storms with more questions than answers for the sake of suffering and evolving creation.
Reflection, 6 August 2017. (Transfiguration)
To all of us, the confirmation of our faith in the Light of Creation. Five young people (primary school students) received the sacrament of confirmation today in our church. As I reflect on my own experience, I see many similarities with preparation in school, sponsor, saint, kneeling before the church official and celebration. I read quickly some the candidates’ work on display inside the church and was impressed to see names like Francis of Assisi, Rose of Lima and Kateri Tekakwitha as saints chosen to be models and sources of inspiration. I seem to remember choosing John as my saint and doing so because it is my father’s name. I wonder if the evangelist has been working on me for the past fifty-plus years and helping me appreciate more and more the worth of daily commitment to the gospels and to Jesus.
Now I can reflect that there have been many ‘confirmations’ of being ‘beloved’ and of continuing to listen to the Word. They include seeing little wrens with blue tails flitting around outside my window now as I type and moments when my face lights up as I speak of being loved and forgiven. It seems to me that these moments are of ‘transfiguration’ when the light-energy inherent at the deepest levels of creation manifests itself through me and confirms that I am being true to my purpose ‘in Christ’. As a school-boy, the sacrament was another formality and I suspect that to be true for today’s young people. I am sensing a call for me to allow my faith to evolve with the ongoing work of the Spirit and to be open to walking with others into a more adult way of believing in, listening to and following the Beloved Son.
Last Friday, I attended my first Parish Council meeting which served as an introduction to its workings and to possibilities for helping. I came away as ‘treasurer’ with much to learn about the finances and reporting on them. Now I wonder about the real treasure of the parish and of what I can contribute. At the meeting’s conclusion, I did offer an article mentioning the Plenary Council announced by the Australian Bishops with the intention of growing into a ‘synodal church’ as Pope Francis challenges us. I see the article as another confirmation of my faith-journey and as pointing to possibilities for a new transfiguration of the Body of Christ. Perhaps the real treasure is the light shining deep within ourselves and our communities. I trust that I can keep listening.
I have been concerned about my neck and back in the last few weeks until I picked up a new mattress and visited a chiropractor. With these new conditions, I have been feeling more alive and healthy – and reflecting that the inner light does have its physical aspects. I read that it was in ancestors of the first fish over 500 million years ago that a simple spinal cord evolved followed by a fold or ridge of skin which provided strength and improved manoeuvrability. Millions of years later came vertebrae – and now we humans live with a flow of energy through our nervous systems as well as a deeper energy empowering us to manoeuvre with awareness through realms of the Spirit and of Love. On some hilltops are transfigurations and on others are crucifixions – all essential to life and growth. I dare to believe that the inner light can shine even more brightly as the physical body ages and weakens as long as I and my communities continue to listen to the Son.
May each of us participate in the Spirit’s confirmations of the Love which is overflowing, playful, joyful and full of celebration.
Reflection, 30 July 2017. (Mt 13:44-52)
To all of us, the wisdom of the heart which seeks treasures both old and new. As I reflect on our brothers’ gathering on the topic of ‘ageing gracefully’, the notion which stays with me is that of ‘effort’ – like the person buying the field with treasure, the pearl merchant or those throwing nets into the sea. I have sensed the challenge to grow and evolve into a more mature spirituality on several occasions in the past week or two and see it as a significant aspect of my congregation and communities as we face the second half of life and pray for the grace to make our lives worthwhile for Church and our common home as we deal with physical diminishment. Part of the effort is in seeing with new eyes how and where the Spirit of Love is leading us.
My own efforts include the ‘old’ of daily prayer and scripture and some ‘new’ in these reflections, in different conversations, in learning more of the Creation story and in moments of spontaneity. I commented during the gathering that a learning for me is to conserve my energies for what is important and I thought later how it is this second-half-of-life spirituality which is inviting me into Love with surprises and a renewed sense of purpose. It is as though the Spirit has cast a net into my heart and found ‘fish of every kind’ which have all played their part and some of which have served their first-half-of-life purpose and can be discarded. St Paul in the reading from Romans seems to be saying that the Creator’s purpose for all of us is to be shaped according to the ‘image of the Son’ and I suspect that being open to and trusting the Spirit’s loving care in this work will need to be matched by new dimensions of self-care as minds and bodies age and slow down.
Seeing how, with new eyes, to do things differently seems to have been such an inevitable force in life’s evolving that the formation of complex eyes may have happened independently perhaps 50 to 100 times in various lifeforms. One scientific estimate indicates that the eyes of today could evolve from simple patches of photoreceptors in about 360,000 generations (or years), driven by mutations and changes giving advantages in the race to live fully (and not starve or be eaten). For possibly three billion years, life had no ‘eyes’ – could not ‘see’ – and then the ‘gift’ of sight gave impetus to the ‘faster, higher, stronger’ new still unfolding today. The eyes of fully alive ‘human ones’ need to see more and more clearly how to live and give impetus to the ‘slower, deeper, wiser’ Resurrection Life here-and-now and how to participate in all dimensions of creation with appropriate care and concern.
I find myself being excited by the prospects of seeing and participating in Mystery, especially when it is a call to allow Love to flow in and through me – and me as a unique image of the Cosmic Christ. I do not see how my efforts are working for the good of all when so much of the world seems stuck in first-half-of-life short-sightedness. I dare to believe that my ‘little faith’ does indeed make a difference.
May each of us grow in our efforts to obtain the treasure and finest pearl of Life in Christ.
Reflection, 23 July 2017. (Mt 13:24-43)
To all of us, the grace to live with the wheat and the weeds of life until the Master reveals their place in the Reign of Love. Jesus in his parable says that the weeds are to be tied up and kept ready for the fire – for warmth, cooking, light, celebration, ritual and much more of what brings joy to our communities. My challenge over the past two weeks has been to see the life-giving aspects of having a bad cold, a sore neck, two wounds from the removal of skin cancers and a worn-out mattress which have been working together to keep me from enjoying fully the warm sun and blue skies of Brisbane. I think of the other readings where I am told that the Spirit helps in weakness and that the Creator cares for all, for me, and has sovereign power over all these kinds of things – so go beyond self-pity and learn to trust.
I came to this part of the country with my own expectations of giving and receiving and now I seem to have the opportunity to consider that my offerings can even be life-denying when not in tune with Spirit. I think of those to whom I have passed on the (flu-like) cold when I had hoped to bring life and energy and I wonder how much the call is for me to acknowledge my growing trust that both wheat and weeds belong and contribute to the fullness of life in different levels. The One ‘who searches the heart’ in places ‘too deep for words’ knows the seeds emerging within me and I am glad and grateful for the Creator’s patience as I become more aware of Mystery’s possibilities.
I was surprised to read that some scientists wonder if the origins of sexual reproduction, perhaps two billion years ago, involved eukaryotes developing ways to ‘fight disease’ as parasites ‘lock on’ to proteins on their surfaces. Asexual reproduction involves duplicating DNA and descendants with the same ‘locks’ being vulnerable to a successful parasite which has developed the right ‘key’. This could lead to mutual destruction. I can imagine that, in one eukaryote, a ‘mistake’ occurred where some genes were not part of the original pattern and were able to be passed on to a neighbour with beneficial consequences. The DNA was both safely duplicated in descendants and also open to new possibilities and combinations. The risks and benefits of sharing genetic material are enjoyed by 99.9% of all eukaryotes and their descendants, including us, to this day. The pattern of ‘wheat and weeds growing together’ would seem to have ancient roots and new manifestations even in my imaginings. I pray that I can be ever more open to the blessings of Mystery.
May each of us grow in gratefulness for all opportunities when we can rejoice with our Creator in new flowerings of Life and Love.
Reflection, 9 July 2017. (Mt 11:25-30)
To all of us, the joy and peace of accepting the yoke of Jesus, the Cosmic Christ. As I reflect on these words which ‘popped up’ – perhaps from a deeper place within – I wonder how loving the Universe and participating creatively in its expansion and evolution can be ‘easy’ and a ‘light’ burden, especially when so many ‘learned and clever’ ones look to their own answers, ignoring and even denying the ‘way, truth and life’ dwelling in our hearts and homes. Perhaps the answer lies in being ‘mere children’ with trust, honesty, gratitude, wonder and playfulness.
I experienced something of this with my spiritual director on Monday as I explored my anger and its threads back to my childhood with the sense of wonder about it being a vital aspect of my evolution and with surprise that it may be a frustrated desire to love and be loved, to ‘make love’ – and to be carried lovingly. The Spirit has already introduced me to ‘Make Friends’ and it is a challenge to me to do so with those qualities of ‘mere children’, beginning with Jesus, myself and my communities. I suspect that the burden will continue to be those who cling to ‘unspiritual lives’ as St Paul describes it and also my tendency to cling to frustration for too long before turning to Love.
I am heartened by Jesus’ repeated invitation to me and all of us to ‘Come!’ and by the sense of peace I feel on many occasions each day when I do turn to him. The invitation includes learning from him and I sense that my soul’s ‘rest’ comes about by imitating his gentleness and humility as best I can. These must be essential qualities of the Father, the Universe Being, and of our deepest nature so it is no surprise that their practice is ‘easy’ and life-giving. I may have little success in changing the world and still find that my contribution to this creation evolving into resurrection involves allowing the Spirit to change me.
DNA studies suggest that all of us multicellular creatures as well as plants originated from one eukaryotic cell perhaps even over three billion years ago. No one can say how this cell or bacterium, one of billions in the oceans, became the first with a nucleus. It may be that it was large enough to ‘eat’ a smaller one in a situation of ‘gentleness’ and ‘humility’ where neither was destroyed and where it became an occasion of mutual benefit; perhaps one could make use of the other’s waste through its ability to burn oxygen which provided extra energy for the former. The cooperation extended to the need for both to reproduce at the same time and pass on those genes to us. I like the notion that these qualities mentioned by Jesus might be written in the cells of my body.
As a community outing on Friday, some of us saw the film ‘Viceroy’s House’ – the story of India and Pakistan becoming separate and independent nations in 1947. I reflected that the violence and the deaths of perhaps two million people, echoing events of today, were a long way from gentleness and humility and a demonstration of an unhealthy desire for strong and rigid boundaries. Healthy and life-giving cells and societies have porous boundaries allowing for mutuality while maintaining separate identities. I suspect that I can become a better friend to the energies of my anger and fear when I allow inner boundaries to follow the pattern.
May each of us ‘come’ and be ‘in Christ’ – in tune with the stars and the cells evolving in Mystery.
Reflection, 2 July 2017. (Mt 10:37-42)
To all of us, the reward of new life here and now for those who love ‘in Christ’ through sharing the cross. When I ask myself what I ‘love’ more than Jesus the Christ, I can come up with quite a few things which sometimes make me ‘not worthy’ even as I recognise occasions when I do welcome and follow his Spirit. I am learning to put aside my own plans and hopes for the future in order to be open to his life and mission with the sense that even my musing on where I might be called is likely to be far short of his possibilities. The Jewish sense of the future was and is invested in family and descendants and now I ask myself about the ‘family’ in which those possibilities for life and mission are being realised today.
I received a reply from the Elijah Interfaith Institute about my suggestion of the Universe story and they suggest that I get involved in a ‘Make Friends’ group and make ‘real’ my idea. I am excited by the prospect and wonder what happens next – how much I have to do and how many surprises will invite further steps into a much bigger family than I have imagined so far. The priest in his homily spoke of a 500-year cycle of growth, decadence and renewal in the life of the Church and how the pattern seems to be unfolding with today’s crises of abuse and diminishment. I thought of the need to return to Friend Jesus and his original mission of healing, presence and good news – of putting him before all else. I wonder how much this challenge to make friends across all sorts of boundaries is the shape of his cross for me and my communities.
I wonder, too, about happenings like the Great Oxidation Event which was brought about by a build-up of oxygen over hundreds of millions of years when generations of our bacterial ancestors were using the Sun’s energy to produce sugars and releasing the gas as a waste product. They were establishing our atmosphere and their own extinction. I can imagine that one of their descendants was gifted with the appropriate mutations which enabled it to make use of oxygen as a source of energy, to survive in a most dangerous environment and to pass on its ability to generations all the way down to us. The problem became part of the solution and I wonder how much that is a pattern inherent in creation in which we can participate today if only we will open up to our true Teacher and Guide.
Our own evolution as a species imbedded in the web of life on this planet will involve communities of individuals, prophets and holy women and men, who take up this aspect of ‘cross’ and discern what ‘cups of cold water’ look like in this era, who are the ‘little ones’ and what needs are most pressing for all of us. Perhaps it is still about smiles, small acts of kindness and unseen moments of self-giving as well as those little sacrifices which reduce carbon footprints and contribute to the ability of all beings to fulfil their role and purpose. Perhaps it is still about Gospel hope and faith.
May each of us continue to evolve in communities of prophets and holy ones living daily in the reward of the spiritual ‘DNA’ of the Cosmic Christ.
Reflection, 25 June 2017 (Mt 10:26-33)
To all of us, the gift of the Life which speaks up and proclaims itself from housetops beyond secrets and fears. I am having a little laugh as I write these words after reading about photosynthesis and the cyanobacteria who emerged with the appropriate mutations which allowed them to make use of sunlight as a new source of energy and then thinking of housetops – or rather roofs with solar panels proclaiming the latest search for energy that is life-giving for our common home. I think of patterns repeating themselves in new ways thanks to the inherent trajectory of creation and the manifestations of our innermost identity as sparks of sacred fire. The ultimate source of power is within and is what will carry us through any crisis as long as we pay attention to its whispering ‘in the dark’.
One ‘whisper in the dark’ for me came in an e-newsletter when I read about “Make Friends” [See Elijah Interfaith Institute ( http://elijah-interfaith.org/ ) ( youtube.com/MakeFriends )]. Pope Francis is one of many prominent religious leaders speaking out on the need to reach across religious boundaries and I think of Jesus, our ultimate Friend. The message is that we need to be alive and growing within our own faith traditions – and so for us Christians to ‘acknowledge Jesus, the Cosmic Christ’ amongst ourselves as well as ‘before others’ as today’s Gospel tells us. The whisper seems to call me to step out of my comfort zones, face my fears and be more of a friend and also seemed to call me to suggest to the organisers of the project that the story of our evolving Universe (as being revealed by scientists) might be a resource for the shared journey. I have made that suggestion via email and trust that the Spirit will continue to guide and to turn small offerings into great gifts.
I can imagine that the era of cyanobacteria began with one individual cell able to pass on its unique gift through its DNA. Over at least a million years (possibly even a billion), these bacteria ruled Earth and their growth in numbers resulted in the great gift of an atmosphere with a significant proportion of oxygen. That pattern is still required today as we participate in old and new ways of cleaning up our water and air and in ongoing evolution into increasing complexity. I wonder if Jesus’ ‘command’ to ‘not be afraid of what can kill the body’ includes the threats of these times, including terrorism, climate change and addictions, and if ‘what can destroy both soul and body’ is still darkness and lack of faith in our minds and hearts. It may be that individuals ‘in Christ’ who acknowledge this ‘fear’ may have a small gift which the Spirit can transform and multiply for the sake of all.
Other ‘whispers’ in the last week include a reminder of ‘commitment’ in the homily echoing a challenge of the past month as well as a sense of being my affirmed as I reached out in recent conversations with three other brothers. I suspect that being ‘acknowledged before our Father in heaven’ is something that occurs here-and-now whenever I strengthen my commitment by speaking about the whispers and my understanding of the work of the Spirit and that I sense the acknowledgement when I sit and breathe in the dark. This seems to me to be a readily available source of life-giving energy.
May each of us acknowledge the Great Source of Life and Love bringing us together as friends for the sake of our common home.
Reflection, 18 June 2017. (Body and Blood of Christ)
To all of us, the fullness of the life which comes from consuming the totality of Jesus’ body and blood. This weekend, I attended a workshop on the Enneagram which reminded me of the energy, peace and joy which I touch occasionally when I operate out of my higher self. These are the moments when I know that I am loved, that all aspects of my body, heart and mind are ‘called to the table’ to play their parts. I am challenged again to ‘take in’ my fears and my avoiding of Mystery’s plans for me and to trust that I do belong to the Body of the Christ with its wounds and its resurrection – that Love desires me to benefit completely from the self-giving which is the signature of Jesus and of the Universe.
Much of my thinking about belonging to this ‘Body’ was affirmed for me by the deacon (married) who gave the homily at Mass. Many of our problems as ‘church’ can be seen as symptoms of a lack of deep relationship with Christ, each other and our deeper selves. We teach and learn ‘about’ our religion before we have become ‘disciples’ who are attracted to the Spirit amongst us and who desire to be healed, to learn and to participate in evolving ways. We teach about ‘the table’ and miss out on the reality of ‘body and blood’ – the messiness of life both Jesus’ and our own. We talk about ‘Eucharist’ with little appreciation for the value of giving thanks for the love and self-giving of the Universe Being who blesses all aspects of belonging within the web of life. I sense the Spirit calling for change.
The promise of ‘life’ which carries through to Resurrection can be imagined in the possibilities suggested by scientists for the origins of the great oceans of our common home. I try to imagine the messiness of the collision of two planetesimals which resulted in our Earth and moon and which could have produced a darkened atmosphere full of dirt and dust. Thanks to its cooling effect coming at the same time as the planet’s surface cools, the water vapour (from volcanoes and perhaps other sources) condenses and falls as rain instead of being blown away into space as seems to have happened on other planets. The ‘body’ of Earth has its ‘life-blood’. Thanks, too, for the first life then able to form in these waters and evolve over billions of years into us ‘in Christ’ and expressing gratitude. The story of Moses and water from the desert rock might be an echo of these great happenings.
May each of us grow in gratitude for all dimensions of the body and blood of the Cosmic Christ who continues to invite us to ‘eat and drink’ at all levels of our participation in Mystery.
John 6:35 Wisdom’s Bread
Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Anyone who comes to me will never be hungry. Anyone who believes in me will never be thirsty.”
Yeshua said to them: ‘The “I Am” is the bread of renewable life energy. When you reconnect your small self – the elemental “I” – to the only “I”, Depth and Source of all identity, you energise the animal life in you.
The freshness of food – its palpable “I am” – feeds the life of all beings receiving it.
This Simple Presence is Holy Wisdom’s daughter, the fruit of natural vigour created in the beginning.
So the “I” fully aware of its ephemeral nature, the germ of individuality’s seed, fuels a passion for what is fresh and verdant.
The self that is conscious of its Self, resting in the eye of desire’s hurricane, touches the energy-filled, energy-less centre – the Living One that was, is and will be, present in every breath.
Whoever travels with and through the Simple Presence coming through me, joined with the I-I of Holy Wisdom, uniting one to many at the table of the One, will find themselves fulfilled on all levels of life, from age to age, from gathering to gathering.
Their inner voices will gather at Wisdom’s table without the gnawing that remains after consuming food that does not nourish or drink that leaves us weakened and dried out inside – all that separates us from our own Simple Presence.’
(Neil Douglas-Klotz, “Desert Wisdom” p103,104)
Reflection, 11 June 2017. (Trinity Sunday)
To all of us, the grace of growing faith in the Incarnate One who reveals Love. Somehow, thousands of years ago, some humans came to know deeply that the Creator knows, loves and nurtures them and their companions into life. Moses was one, followed by Jesus, Paul and countless others. Somehow, that same message is making its slow way from my head to my heart and I wonder how that can be and what it means for me and my communities. The readings today say little about what to do in terms of actions and much about believing as though faith is all that matters. I suspect that I can be one of the ‘headstrong people’ in many different ways, not fully trusting the Mystery ‘rich in kindness and faithfulness.’ I am glad that this Lord is marked by tenderness, compassion and forgiveness.
For these couple of weeks, I am house-sitting in Melbourne in order to take care of my sister’s dog while she is away. I am finding it to be an invitation to experience love in new ways, including doing less and simply ‘being with’ my aging companion on our daily walks as he takes time to put his nose into various places and progress slowly up the hills on the return trek. I am not used to responding to another’s needs and wants on a daily basis no matter what the weather or calls of ‘duty’ and I sense that I am beginning to touch what it means to be ‘in the image and likeness’ of our loving Creator. This is how he deals with me and now it is my turn to be compassionate, patient and joyful because it is in my nature: everyone’s nature. Perhaps I am growing into something which is needed more and more in our seemingly more divided and still headstrong societies: a deeper sense of ‘the fellowship of the Holy Spirit’ – the most life-giving way forward.
As I begin to doubt my ability to make a difference in this world loved totally by the one Source, I think of the Moon’s significance for life. This celestial body, likely ‘born’ from our planet, is perhaps one hundredth the mass of Earth and seems to be one key factor among many in our evolving. Through its size and proximity, it helps by moderating how much Earth’s axis wobbles and so enables our seasons to come and go without drastic changes and almost-permanent boiling summers and freezing winters. At the same time, it is causing a slowing of Earth’s rotation while it is moving further away (at 3.8cm/year, it is said). The Universe seems to be comprised of ‘fellowships’ like this which contribute to increasing complexity even as they themselves evolve. I suspect that what is true of the larger scales is also true on the human scale – if only we have the eyes to see and the faith to believe.
I give thanks for grace, the gift flowing through the Christ and available to all, for my glimpses of life evolving in and around me – from walks in the park with dogs to celestial bodies seen and unseen. It is a living flow, building on the past, operating in every present moment and providing stepping stones into the future (much as the Moon has been the first step for humans to journey beyond Earth’s confines). I dare to believe that Love has much more with which to grace me and all my communities so that we can give even more of ourselves according to the patterns of incarnation and evolution.
May each of us believe more and more in our unique place in the life of our Loving Trinity.
Reflection, 4 June 2017. (Pentecost)
To all of us, the excitement of being caught up in the sound of Love’s power flowing through creation. I wonder about the ‘sound’ heard by the disciples and then by the crowds and what emotions may have been stirred by memories of powerful and violent winds and then by the realisation that there were no visible signs of destruction and chaos. Perhaps that sound manifested itself in the excited and joyful exclamations of those bewildered by the outpouring of Spirit and then in the gift of speech heralding the birth of a new era in which this Spirit is available to all. As we heard in our homily today, it is about understanding each other, having a common language (of love) and growing together as one family.
I have recently seen the movie “Don’t Tell” which highlights for me another aspect of ‘common language’: that of wounds and suffering. The gospel reading reminds us that Jesus displays his wounds to the disciples locked away in fear and the story in the film concerns a victim of child abuse wanting to ‘display’ in court her story of betrayal, terror and rage. In both cases, the result is new life for those open to the Spirit, whether they recognise and name it or not. The destruction and chaos are present in individuals’ hearts and minds as well as in relationships lacking understanding and compassion. The Spirit is available in all these circumstances and more, and we all choose with a yes or a no.
I sense a daunting responsibility to say ‘yes’ to participating in this sound of the Spirit when it comes to forgiveness and especially to ‘retaining’ sins like abuse, denial and cover-ups. Jesus seems to be sending people like me and my communities to ‘make noise’ – to proclaim and live in his peace and joy while calling for metanoia. I can only give thanks and rejoice for my own small and limited experiences of saying ‘yes’ and of Love’s flow.
I consider, too, how all of us participate in small but significant ways in the Creator Spirit’s immense flow throughout our evolving Universe. I read that a supernova event happened about 4.6 billion years ago ‘near’ a giant cloud of gas and dust. It was not ‘sound waves’ at work but ‘shock waves’ which disturbed and compressed the cloud and began its collapse, through gravity, into a new, smaller star with a series of planets, one of which is now our common home, Earth. The violent, explosive death of one star provided the material and energy source for the variety of life which continues to unfold into new entities and ways of thinking in both minds and hearts. I dare to say, “Jesus is Lord of all these happenings!” and to give thanks for the grace of being aware of deeper and larger dimensions of his ‘body’.
May each of us be open to the ever-new sounds of the Spirit flowing and rejoicing in and around us and the worlds to which we are sent.
Reflection, 28 May 2017. (Ascension)
To all of us, the wonder of ‘ascending’ in Christ to the Realm of being fully alive. According to a priest in a sermon I heard recently, one belief held by many people two thousand years ago was that the ‘heavens’ were held up by mountains and so the tops of mountains were ‘thin places’ where the two ‘worlds’ met and where the Realm of the Divine could be accessed. Today’s readings mention both the mountain and the cloud, references to where the resurrected Jesus ‘returns’, the place of Sacred Oneness in which he rules all domains, seen and unseen, from the depths of emptiness to the horizons of our expanding Universe. For two thousand years, he commands his followers to be his witnesses, to proclaim this story with its message of Loving Presence.
Somehow, I am one of these disciples – more like one of those who doubt and hesitate – and I find that my belief grows when I respond spontaneously and wanes when I think too much and my fears and resentments take over. I have my own ideas and plans – and am learning from the Spirit that there is an unimaginable power and trajectory sweeping me along in a vastly bigger, living picture. I suspect that allowing myself to be in tune with these desires and blueprints of the Cosmic Christ is how I can be an ‘ascended’ human being and a true herald. I am learning that vacuuming, sweeping and tidying up inside and out, significant elements of my past week, all belong in this spirit-scape even when I think otherwise.
The Mystery of how this happens is highlighted for me in three versions of a phrase in Ephesians (1:18): ‘the eyes of your mind’, ‘the eyes of your heart’ and ‘the eyes of your inmost self’. The first version I read last week mentioned ‘heart’ and so I am encouraged to practise focussing my attention there where the heart-brain (heart-mind?) functions and seems to be an essential ingredient in living life fully. I am learning that this focus does ‘lift my spirit’ – makes me more of an ‘ascended’ being with moments of love for the Sacred in me as well as in my neighbours. I thank the Trinity for enlivening me thus far.
I wonder about the presence in creation of these patterns of waxing and waning, of losing and finding, of chaos and new life. I see hints of it in descriptions of our galaxy, the Milky Way, where turmoil, gas, dust and various powers give rise to perhaps 7 new stars every year, and where its approximately 200,000 stars make up about 10% of its total mass with about 90% being ‘dark matter’ and mystery. It seems to have been growing with a life of its own as it has absorbed other smaller galaxies in its approximately 13.6 billion years and now may be ‘attracting’ and absorbing stars from the Canis Major Dwarf Galaxy. This may be what a ‘fully alive’ galaxy looks like in an ‘alive’ local group of galaxies which is part of a supercluster. Looking up into the sky as Jesus’ disciples did when he vanished from ordinary sight may not be a waste of time when it reveals the hope, glories and power available to those who allow themselves to be swept up in the full life of his body, in his communities, galaxies and clusters. I can only give thanks that it is one small step at a time.
May each of us grow in our living and teaching of these commands and blueprints written in the heavens and on our hearts.
Reflection, 21 May 2017. (Jn 14:15-21)
To all of us, the growing life and knowing of the Advocate who helps us to see the Cosmic Christ. I note that the heart is referred to again in today’s readings – in Peter’s letter – and I wonder if that is where we are to receive and keep Jesus’ commandments. I suspect that they become the ‘law written on our hearts’ which is where the Trinity dwells and where Jesus is revealed in one most significant aspect. They are also written in the ‘heavens’ and in our neighbours – all aspects of the One Mystery.
It occurred to me, when I read that Jesus will show himself to those who love him, that he is showing deep dimensions of himself as Cosmic Christ through the work of many scientists today. Some astronomers have given the name Laniakea to the giant supercluster of galaxies which includes our Milky Way and approximately 100,000 other galaxies, grouped in smaller superclusters. They believe that there is a Great Attractor organising Laniakea and suspect that the supercluster will be torn apart by ‘dark energy’. I see echoes here of the Paschal Mystery where the Creator Spirit sets the pattern followed by Jesus who lived in obedience to his ‘Father’, was ‘torn apart’ and was raised to new life. All those who are ‘in Christ’ live according to the same pattern and can expect suffering as Peter says in his letter. I try to think of Laniakea with its unimaginable size and of Earth, one of trillions of planets, and of me and my communities who are loved by this Presence – and am not sure whether to laugh or cry so I alternate between them with wonder and gratitude that we exist and are known by name.
On Friday, I attended the funeral of my sister’s sister-in-law. Relatives came from different parts of Australia and shared this moment of grief and of celebrating a life which had endured years of suffering from cancer. Somehow, she is now ‘in Christ’ in an unimaginable way, participating in the foundational powers of galaxies and black holes with what we imagine to be peace, joy and self-giving love. We imagine this because we experience it here and now. I had a taste of it when chatting to some of her relatives, especially her (adult) children in the pub afterwards. I can only thank the Advocate/Helper for providing me with a mixture of certainty, peace and some ‘right words’ to say, especially when I explained who I am and my connection to a place of ecology and spirituality. It was another occasion when conversations involving Trinity, Spirit, suffering and much more seem to bring comfort, aliveness and hope to those who are open and searching – especially to me. I can only wonder and give thanks.
May each of us experience more and more of the inner and outer depths of our loving and evolving Cosmic Christ who searches in and through us for hearts where the Spirit can dance.
Reflection, 14 May 2017. (Jn 14:1-12)
To all of us, the joy and wonder of participating in the greater works of the Christ. Last Sunday, I joined other brothers in our ‘Circles of Empowerment’ with discussion around the child abuse issue. Today, a week later, I wonder how much I, and many of us, believe in the ‘human one’ who is ‘the way, the truth and the life’. There were some in my circle who sense, like me, that we have not fully learnt the lessons of this dimension of our past and that this is an opportunity for something new – and now I wonder if it could be an opportunity for one of these ‘greater works’ possible through the guidance of the Spirit. The growing challenge for me is to believe that Jesus reveals a Father/Mother who knows me personally – and I am excited at the prospects.
On Wednesday, I participated in a reflection day with the theme of ‘truth’. While many interesting and thought-provoking things were said, Jesus the Christ and his words from today’s Gospel were not mentioned and I came away feeling sad and ashamed that I did not say anything about my belief that ‘Truth’ is a person more than a ‘notion’ and that this Cosmic Being is incarnated in our evolving Universe – is a ‘living stone’ and full of possibility. My fear of rejection is still strong and I am grateful for the moments when I sense that I do belong to the community featured in the other readings. Part of the challenge is to trust that being rejected is a dimension of Jesus’ way and to find support in those believing communities.
I imagine those early communities of Jesus’ followers grew in numbers because they experienced him through their companions, shared their stories and found that they could indeed live in new and more loving ways. The leaders, the Apostles, talked about the Christ because he was and is the ‘great attractor’ at the centre of everything. I wonder how much we as religious and Church people have lost the sense of his Life and presence as the foundation and corner-stone of our lives – and so there is no great power of attraction in us. I have made timid efforts to proclaim my faith and I sense that the necessary dimension is a faith community. I dare to believe that ‘great works’ are happening in and around me even though I do not see.
I find it interesting that each galaxy and cluster of galaxies has been formed around a ‘great attractor’ in the form of a ‘black hole’ which is very dynamic with a ‘life’ of its own. By organising stars and clouds of dust, it creates opportunities for succeeding generations of super-nova events to continue the processes of evolution from fundamental particles all the way to life ‘in Christ’ and the challenges outlined in ‘Laudato Si’, perhaps another of the ‘greater works’ of this Anthropocene Era. The pattern is inscribed in the heavens and in our inner worlds – and we have the choice. I choose to ‘see’ Jesus the Christ more and more until I ‘see’ the Father, Creative Love, and how I can participate in new ways in the Life of ‘I Am’.
May each of us experience Great Love revealing itself in and around us with compassion and joy to be shared throughout our common home.
Reflection, 30 April 2017. (Lk 24:13-35)
To all of us, the sense of ‘hearts burning within’ as we journey with companions sharing our hopes in Jesus. Several months ago, a member of our extended community lent me a book to read, “The Roots of Christian Mysticism”, which I intended to read and which I have put aside on a couple of occasions, until this weekend. It is as though the Spirit has put it into my hands again, gently, as an area for me to explore on my way ‘to Emmaus’ and back ‘to Jerusalem.’ Cleopas and his companion would have been on this path when they followed Jesus before the crucifixion and needed to update their understanding because of it. The few pages which I have read tell me that it is always an unfolding journey inspired by our inherent, deep desire for wholeness and relationship with the All. I pray that I can walk this ‘way’, sharing the experience of updating and evolving with others.
At the end of this week, I had the task of preparing the PowerPoint and the music for the liturgy (and then operating the system during Mass). I was pleased with the results as well as the comments from some parishioners afterwards and especially pleased in the sacristy when I joined a conversation and our priest commented that he had a ‘revelation’ from the final song about Jesus’ presence in our companions. The Spirit was mentioned several times by different people and I had a sense of being in the company of others walking this way of mysticism. As in the Gospel story, the Trinity became manifest when we talked of hopes and blessings and my ‘heart’ – my heart-brain – became excited and joyful. It happens at unexpected times and places and invites me to become more aware in every present moment.
The happenings began billions of years ago when the first electrons, protons and neutrons were formed and, in turn, joined together to produce nuclei which later became the centre of atoms. When hydrogen fused to form helium, a new element was produced with a release of energy and light – still happening in our Sun. For us and others like Cleopas, the new element is in our understanding of the power of the cross and how it is the way to new life rather than the way in which Jesus might save us from suffering. I am grateful for Richard Rohr for helping me change my thinking and for the Spirit for the affirming sense of ‘energy and light’ in my inner world. Perhaps the call includes being open to new ways of breaking and sharing the ‘bread’ broken for all.
I suspect that Jesus, in revealing the ‘light-matter’ of his resurrected body, is still calling me and my communities to his story as depicted in all scriptures, first, ‘old’ and ‘new’, and to conversations about them and him where he will open our eyes to see what this new era of creation holds. Like Cleopas and his companion, it will be a matter of urgency to return to the larger gathering and share the excitement and the wonder of it all before speaking out to the crowds as Peter does in the reading from Acts. My challenge is to believe that the Spirit is doing something like that in and through me when I take steps on the way of mysticism.
May each of us encounter the resurrected Jesus, Christ and Lord of all, and grow in faith that ‘light-matter’ is our present reality.
Reflection, 23 April 2017. (Jn 20:19-31)
May each of us grow in the life which comes through believing that the Messiah is Jesus, now and forever Son of God and Lord of all. I have been dreaming and wondering about being part of a ‘new’ community for several years and was invited in a commentary to reflect on the community portrayed in today’s Gospel reading. We see a group of disciples huddled in fear with at least one missing who has strong doubts about Jesus and possible resurrection. Their human frailties, their ‘wounds’, are obvious and then Jesus appears and displays his wounded hands and side. It is a community of the wounded who can rejoice in suffering and in the vibrant peace which comes through clinging to faith tested in fire. This is the community which lives and grows in the first reading and throughout the Christian scriptures up to here and now. It was attracting new members then and attracts me now as the true locus of living life fully.
The reading from Acts lists four essential aspect of the community – the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. I suspect that all these need much greater emphasis throughout our Church and that issues such as child abuse are symptoms of their absence. This may be where we are called to the way of forgiveness which Jesus highlights in his appearance to the disciples and in the way of praying he taught them. Mercy is instantaneous for those who bring their wounds into his company and describes the core business of his friends and companions and what it means to ‘have life through his name’ – through crosses and resurrections.
As I reflect on the Jesus in the Easter readings as one who can be touched, who eats and who appears and disappears at will, I think of the beginnings of our Universe when the first forms to emerge within the expanding energetic ball were particles, electrons, neutrons, protons and more. I wonder if Jesus the Christ is the ultimate form of energy embracing both dimensions of creation as well as the promise of the ultimate destiny of all entities. Perhaps this is the source of the joyful peace he gives to those who believe and begin to live as best they can in both these dimensions here and now, an inner peaceful joy in the midst of the testing, fiery energies of transformation and expansion.
Another echo of our expanding and unfolding Universe is evident in the growth of the early community of disciples as others were attracted to the energy and healing of the Spirit at work. The ball of energy continues to expand and make spaces for new entities to emerge as the gravitational powers of attraction brought existing forms together. On Thursday, I went along to a ‘space’ at Treacy Centre, attracted by the possibility of meeting an Indigenous man who has written a book titled ‘Dark Emu’ which outlines some of the little-known truths of what happened when early explorers and settlers came in contact with Indigenous people across Australia. The colonists’ reports of cultivation, engineering, organisation, culture, sharing, joy and peace were ignored by authorities in order to permit the taking of the land from the ‘savages’ (by those who probably called themselves Christians). There are many symptoms of the lack of true community in Christ where all come together to share in the new humanity revealed in resurrection.
May all of us share in resurrection-life in communities centred on the wounded Christ.
Reflection, 16 April 2017. (Easter)
To all of us, the excitement and grace of the first day of New Creation. On this ‘first day’ which began with Jesus’ Resurrection and is still unfolding, I wonder about the way in which creation is ‘new’ for me and all followers of Christ. I like the suggestion that what is new is the ‘mind of Christ’ and the pattern of ‘self-emptying’ which Jesus reveals and Paul describes in Philippians 2. In accord with our evolving Universe which began with the chaos and energies of the ‘big bang’ and the combining of fundamental particles to form ever more complex entities, this ‘Mind’ is forged in the chaos of human fears and violence to reveal itself as the energy and blueprint of the Love at the heart of creation. It is a ‘new’ way of thinking and imagining which is as much part of creation as matter and the human spirit.
My experience of being a first-time ‘commentator’ during the three ceremonies of the Sacred Triduum in our parish this Easter has invited me to reflect on how I am challenged to think and to act in new ways, not just for those attending the liturgies but also for my communities as fear and chaos seem to increase around the world. I was called to give up my ‘identity’ as the quiet one in the background and become more ‘complex’ by adding the dimension of being the one who knows what is happening in the ceremonies and who guides others in their participation. It was one thing to make sure that books were open at the correct reading, to prepare and light the fire and to sweep the outside area for the vigil gathering. It was another thing to be ready at the microphone to explain the parts of each liturgy and to do so in a way that encouraged insight and reflection. I proved to be a beginner, a novice disciple, as a liturgist, with memory blanks and omissions and I come away trusting that the Spirit could work wonders with my stumbling efforts. I am evolving as ‘disciple’ and sense that the ‘mind of Christ’ is the core element which must evolve in me – in my heart-brain.
A commentary which stays with me describes how the Easter story is really the story of what the Creator is doing to bring to reality this ‘mind’ in Jesus and those who believe in him. Beginning 13.8 billion years ago and continuing through Jesus’ conception, birth, baptism, wilderness experience, transfiguration, miracles, death and resurrection, the Power of Love has produced forms and events which were unimagined. A few months ago, I did not imagine being behind a microphone at Easter and I can only trust that there are many more surprises to come for all disciples as evolution continues. Perhaps there will be further lessons in being guide and commentator, in participating in rituals and in paying attention to heart energies. It is more likely that there will be experiences completely unexpected and unimagined – and challenges to deeper faith.
I suspect that a significant challenge for these times is to keep believing in and telling the story of Jesus the Christ as so many of the Easter readings depict. I did sense a taste of the excitement when I was speaking as commentator and consider that this is the area where I am still a novice disciple as I have been since I started classroom teaching forty-four years ago. Somehow it is always fresh and new as the Spirit works in my heart-brain to guide me in different circumstances where science and biblical studies have so much more to contribute. It is still ‘day 1’ of this Resurrection Era and I dare to believe that I and my communities are ‘in Christ’ and participating in the dance of the Trinity.
May each of us keep going back ‘to Galilee’ where discipleship begins.
Reflection, 9 April 2017. (Palm Sunday of the Passion)
To all of us, loving faithfulness in helplessness and death. We could not begin today’s Palm Sunday liturgy outside because of rain (and cold winds) so it had a different feel to it, especially as I had the role of ‘commentator’ which I have not done before. The weather changed our plans and reminded me that, even in little ways, the Spirit has plans for me and my communities of surprise and delight and I am called to participate in a bigger picture. I had thought of saying that the readings invite us to consider what kind of Messiah we wish to welcome to our town and what kind of Messiah actually wants to come to our hearts. I lost my thoughts in the organisational details and came to reflect that the one coming to my heart has learnt on the cross to let go of all this and much more. To be ‘in Christ’ is to lose clothes, dignity, friends, expectations, any sense of being chosen, and life itself – because that is the nature of the Universe Being.
At the usual gathering in the café later, there was some discussion of President Trump’s decision to send missiles into the air-base in Syria. It is easy to feel some sympathy for the action taken in response to the use of chemical weapons and I found it increasingly difficult to hold on to the image of Jesus on the cross and to his command to ‘put away the sword’ as the only way appropriate to his Reign of Empowerment. I wonder if to be fully ‘in Christ’ includes challenging the modern-day Caesars, Pilates and High Priests as well as fellow parishioners to a life of self-emptying and humility as the only way to healing and Resurrection. I pray that I can hold that image and give witness to it in my life.
As I look outside and see the wind and rain, I know that branches will fall off trees and the tree will keep growing and that, most likely, some trees will fall and the forest will remain. I imagine that Christ’s Body, at the levels of Universe and of Church, follows the same ‘law’ especially when its ‘head’ undergoes a similar experience. The present era of Earth’s history is being called the ‘Anthropocene’ because we humans are having a significant impact on its future direction. Jesus shows us how to be fully human in the face of the inevitable suffering and death which are significant steps in the evolutionary paths of all entities from molecules to galaxies and beyond. I sense that this is what it looks like when Love becomes manifest in increasingly complex ways – with increasingly complex waves of energy resonating to inform new modes of being. It is Mystery at work and it involves birthing-pains – and I dare to believe that I am participating in it.
Whether in the wilderness or the garden, there are temptations to be faced and the attributes of a disciple will be required, including an open ear and a tongue ready to speak. Jesus has little to say in words in today’s Gospel stories and much to depict in symbolic actions and in silence. He rides a donkey, holds bread and wine and prays in terror for alternatives. The people of our era still need to hear these stories and how they echo the rhythms of our unfolding Universe. I dare to believe that Jesus is the Cosmic Christ and supreme ‘blueprint’ of what it is to be loving and free.
May each of us grow in freedom and faith when all seems dark and helpless on our resurrection journeys.
Reflection, 2 April 2017. (Jn 11:1-45)
To all of us, the unbinding into freedom which comes from faith in ‘Resurrection Jesus’. I can say in my head that ‘Jesus is Resurrection and Life’ and that ‘I Am (is) resurrection and life’ and wonder how much my heart knows and understands this as a matter of faith and mystery. I read (Tom Wright) that Jesus may have spent those two days before returning to Bethany in prayer and I wonder how much he was asking ‘I Am’ for Lazarus’ resurrection and how much he was listening for his Father’s will. The suggestion is that he was asking for the sign of ‘no stench’ as an indication that his prayer had been answered and I can imagine that he was very relieved and grateful when the stone was moved. He could call out to Lazarus knowing that the witnesses would be both affirmed and challenged in their minds and hearts.
It makes sense to me that Jesus grew in faith this way and the story challenges me to listen ‘in the Spirit’ to hear what to pray for and then to pray for as long as required and until the prompt to act. I wonder if I spend too much time waiting and praying for a resurrection of religious life for me and my communities or if there is more for us to learn and we are slow learners. Martha and Mary had much to learn and what they experienced was way beyond their expectations. I dare to believe that we will be witnesses to something now unimaginable if and when we, like the sisters, go out to meet Jesus on the road with our ‘if’s and our grief – and he says, “If you believe!”
Ezekiel’s vision and message from the valley of dry bones speak of the spirit, being raised from graves and living on our own soil. I wonder how much this is about returning to our beginnings as religious and followers of the Christ, especially in these times of cyclones, floods and other effects of climate change. Here in Glenburn we have moved from a summer which has been warmer and dryer than usual into a week that feels like winter with little rain and temperatures ranging between about 4° or 5° and 16° or 17°. We may be heading back into a more normal autumn but predictions, like those of flood levels in Queensland and NSW, have significant margins of error. It seems to be the other side of the ‘unimaginable’ with much to grieve and many ‘if’s to ponder.
It is comforting to believe that Jesus is still weeping for the sufferings of creation just as he wept for Lazarus, Martha and Mary – and possibly for his own fate as he grew in the understanding that cruel death and burial is the only way for him (and us) to resurrection. He, too, could read the signs of the Creator’s power and the way in which the universe evolves in complexity. Today’s circumstances of war and climate change continue to provide opportunities ‘for God’s glory’ to be revealed so that our faith may be strengthened. We are called to join Thomas and the other disciples in saying that we will go and ‘die with him’ – and trust in Resurrection.
May each of us experience the unbinding of our hearts and the unimagined new life which comes from sharing both death and resurrection ‘in Christ’.
John 11:25 Resurrection
Inana nuhama wa hayye
I am the resurrection and the life.
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection.
If anyone believes in me, even though he dies he will live,
and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.”
Yeshua said to Martha: Connecting I to the Only I, Simple Presence, is the only repose and refuge after a journey of agitation. The self conscious of its Self can then change house, move to a new revivified life, when the old habits and habitation fade away. This “resurrection” is the point of pause, the still point in the pendulum’s swing, energised by the Holy One’s creative peace.
Whoever has the same faith that I do, who trusts and believes as I do, even if they have passed through the doorway between this life and the next, between this world and another, between this small self and a new one, they shall find both energised rest and a renewed sense of purpose to carry them further on the way.
(Neil Douglas-Klotz, “Desert Wisdom” p205)
Reflection, 26 March 2017. (Jn 9:1-41)
To all of us, the eyes which see the light at the heart of our existence. I am encouraged by the notion that one can be ‘born blind’ so that Mercy and Truth might be revealed. One aspect of my blindness is touched on by St Paul when he says in the second reading, “Try to discover what the Lord wants of you, . . ..” and I think of the suffering of our world in its many aspects and wonder how I am called to ‘be light’ – especially the light which exposes the works of darkness by contrasting works of love. Samuel reminds me that ‘the Lord looks at the heart’ and so I am encouraged to do the same as an ‘image and likeness’ of the YHWH: to involve my heart more and more as an image and likeness of the heart of Jesus.
The Gospel story points me in the direction of growing from blindness to light. Jesus sees the man born blind and is very aware of the possibilities for healing and for his kingdom work. The man’s eyes are opened and he refers to ‘the man called Jesus’ whom soon he calls ‘prophet’ as people keep questioning him. I imagine that this call to provide answers is the stimulus to his seeing that Jesus must be ‘from God’ and finally to understanding that Jesus is ‘Son of Man’ and Lord. This is at least part of what the Trinity ‘wants’ of and for me and my communities and suggests the sort of searching conversations in which to engage.
On Wednesday, some of us went along to an Earthsong day of reflecting on ‘beauty’ (part of a triad with truth and goodness to come later in the year). The significant learning for all of us was to see ‘beauty’ as ‘experience’ rather than just observation and thinking. In the brief conversations which were part of each session, what stayed with me was the challenge to ‘participate’ in beauty and to do so as Jesus does in situations like the one with the man born blind. I wonder if doing this ‘in Christ’ involves bringing ‘light’ into darkness both inner and outer and to restore harmony and the fullness of life all the way to the joy of seeing another being becoming a disciple who also participates in sharing the way of beauty. I have recently enjoyed the new movie ‘Beauty and the Beast’ which touched me and affirmed for me the power of self-sacrificing love to bring about change and to deepen relationships.
Another aspect of the call which I am sensing is that of participating in rituals which focus on the power inherent in creation as Jesus does in his use of mud and saliva. Each situation may contain its unique symbolic act which will be revealed when the focus is on the light in one’s heart as well as on the entire landscape of the occasion. There is the challenge to see how the
Spirit combines a great diversity of solids and liquids to create the beauty of every being and every ecosystem and how the movements of ‘go and wash’ calls for faith and obedience as inherent dimensions of being fully alive.
May each of us come to see the ways in which we are blind and how they are opportunities for the Creator to love us into participating fully in the Realm of Light.
Reflection, 19 March 2017. (Jn 4:5-42)
To all of us, the living water of right relationships with our Saviour, the Cosmic Christ. In our part of Australia, there has been little rain so far this month with temperatures above average and bushfire dangers increasing. The next couple of days are expected to bring humidity, rain and even minor flooding. Jesus at Jacob’s well seems to be following a similar pattern with a trek in the heat and with slow-to-learn disciples followed by ‘food that you do not know about’ and two days of hospitality and growing the Reign of the Love. It happened through hunger and thirst on different levels which led to dialogue and shared vulnerability. The woman’s dried up heart becomes bubbling spring through a deep encounter with the Christ.
My thirsting took me to a day of reflection on Tuesday to hear and converse about Consecrated Life for today. In some ways, I heard nothing new and yet came away enlivened and affirmed from this encounter with Jesus in the form of fellow Religious. One new term was ‘de-link’ – to hold lightly past circumstances and dreams for the future so that they do not dominate while they are not forgotten. The readings about Moses, Paul, the woman and Jesus himself demonstrate the process in action where they turn to Divine Presence – in their hearts – and Love flows in new forms. The call to us Religious included that we be the ‘yeast’ (even more than being a ‘critical mass’) for the transformation of ‘the world’ through our contemplation and ‘radical availability’ in each present moment. I wonder how the Spirit is leading me (and my communities) into this realm of prophetic hope.
On Friday, I joined a small family gathering to celebrate my sister’s birthday and experienced the joys and hopes of past and future, especially in the presence of her only grandchild who has been in hospital in his 17 months of life more times than I have been in all my years. On this occasion, he was happy, alert, exploring and bringing joy to all. I wonder what environmental factors impact on him and on his generation and how I can be ’yeast’ keeping hope alive. The basics include an evolving relationship with the Christ and living in his hunger and thirst for me and for all members of his family. In today’s Gospel story, they include also acknowledging him as ‘saviour of the world.’
In one Lenten programme, I read that ‘less than 1% of Earth’s total water is available for our use’ and that ‘access to safe drinking water is a basic and universal human right.’ All of this is under threat from pollution and market forces and it may be a growing issue for future generations. The water offered by Jesus is also a basic right and needs people like the woman at the well to proclaim its truth and power here and now. I pray that I can respond as she did when next I take my shame and vulnerability to the well where the Saviour is waiting for me to join him in spreading good news.
May each of us drink more and more of what Jesus offers and celebrate in him as we lead others to his well.
Reflection, 12 March 2017. (Mt 17:1-9)
To all of us, the grace of being transfigured in Christ as we listen to, follow and proclaim him. A word which has stayed with me in the last week is ‘vulnerability’. It appeared in two passages which I read and then was highlighted when I saw the movie ‘Moonlight’. I wondered about the energy which seems to ‘light up my face’ when I engage in conversations about Jesus and being loved and forgiven. It is like an echo of transfiguration and I sensed it in the journey of reconciliation made by the two boys / young men in the story on the screen where fear and despair feature significantly. Both of them took risks and edged their way into honesty and vulnerability and I am aware of that ongoing challenge for myself.
I note that Jesus was transfigured when he was in conversation with Oneness, prophets and disciples and I can imagine that the memory of it stayed with him as the echoes of it stay with me and that it was an encouragement when he was on a different hill where he was abandoned, suffering and thirsting. The message on both occasions was the same: that he is indeed faithful ‘son’ with a mission which now includes me and my communities. Vulnerability and glory are inseparable ingredients in transfiguration and resurrection.
I enjoyed a different taste of being vulnerable when I participated in a circle dance session on Saturday and was challenged to learn new steps of about a dozen dances and to persevere through trial and error. Several of us were beginners and all of us enjoyed the moments of being true to the dance (not necessarily all at the same time) and it was a celebration of community and well-being. It is another of the moments with a memory which encourage me as different challenges face all of us.
A significant community is in the news at the moment – the Great Barrier Reef and the very recent bleaching event. Different articles described it as a natural wonder and as the largest living organism in our common home. The abuse is very real and most likely to reoccur, even this year. The causes include the lifestyle of me and my communities which makes us both perpetrators and victims with the challenge to bear the hardships for the sake of an even bigger organism, our planet Gaia, and its suffering as smaller holons are affected negatively. We will need more and deeper memories of transfiguration’s echoes as we go further and further down the mountain slopes.
May each of us step deeper into vulnerability in the faith that transfiguration and its memories will keep coming.
Reflection, 5 March 2017. (Mt 4:1-11)
To all of us, the Spirit of Lent revealing our temptations with their challenges and graces. Our place here has been busy in the first few days of Lent with visitors coming and going and with all the work of hospitality and cleaning. I had my ideas about how I could be more faithful and ‘obedient’ in this special season and it seems as though the Trinity has other plans – and ones designed to test my living from my heart. I have had many opportunities to practise taking situations to my ‘heart-brain’ and trusting that an answer would come and that my frustrations would give way to blessings. It is as though I wanted the ‘stones’ within and around me turned into ‘loaves’ – and I am beginning to learn about the inner realm where ‘words from the mouth of God’ are heard.
In the midst of partly cleaning the fish pond, vacuuming upstairs and down and driving in city traffic as well as through country road works, I became aware of ‘testing’ the Supreme Being with notions of rewards for my ‘good’ behaviour. I am learning a new sense of what it means to live in each present moment where the reward is some awareness of serving and being open to Love flowing in and through me. This is true worship and seems to me to be the essence of being human whereas Eve and Adam (and sometimes me) desired to be ‘like God’ with the wisdom of knowing the outer world and how to make it serve their wants. Most of the time, I do not like the lessons which come my way until I can look back and see graces all around. As well, there are opportunities to do better.
Last week’s 4Corners program ‘Oceans of Plastic’ (worth viewing) highlights one aspect in which many people and nations need to do much better. Researchers say that we cannot account for millions of tonnes of plastic waste and that much of it may be in our oceans, on the ocean floor, breaking down into microscopic particles which float up and down with plankton and drift around on currents as ‘rafts’ for bacteria. This plastic is entering the food chain – not yet at ‘dangerous’ levels – so it is another aspect of what we are learning about our world and how our lack of wisdom is impacting our common home. I try to cut down on my use of plastic and am aware that I put some in a bin every day and that a huge effort from many people and communities is needed to deal with both the causes and consequences of our blindness. We need Heart-Wisdom to follow the Spirit leading us into new kinds of wilderness and fasting. I wonder if this is where I and my communities are called to serve.
I wonder, too, about St Paul’s words in the second reading where he speaks of ‘receiving’ the free gift which is not deserved. In my reflection, the idea popped up that the real challenge is to ‘receive’ – not to take or ask or seek or do anything to earn it – just to be open to what is present in order to be its instrument. Most likely, it will mean ‘wilderness’ and hungers of many kinds as well as the care of angels. It may require taking off the loin-cloths made of fig-leaves and revealing our naked selves as forms of dust alive with the Creator’s breath. Only in Christ can we see ‘Satan’ off.
May each of us know our temptations and the Wisdom in the heart of all our relationships as we grow in the service of Love.
Reflection, 26 Feb ’17. (Mt 6:24-34)
May all of us live and grow in love with our hearts set on the Realm of the Sacred. Jesus tells us one thing not to do and that is to worry about tomorrow. I sense that I am doing that right now as I look ahead to the next few days here at home and so I am reminded, thanks to the Spirit, to focus on the here-and-now, to breathe and to remember the ‘Father’ who cherishes me, who knows my situation and is quite capable of supplying what I might need. Part of my worry is that serving this master can involve activities from sweeping floors to being the prophet – and then being judged as Paul writes about in the second reading. I pray that the Spirit will bring more healing to the shadows of my inner world.
These inner shadows are just as much a part of Love’s Realm as are the ‘heavens’ where more and more Earth-like planets are being discovered. The Hubble telescope is one of dozens of pieces of equipment in space helping us to look back in time and to get some understanding of the powers, ‘rules’ and patterns of creation. Edwin Hubble’s work revealed other galaxies and the possibility of a central point of origin for our expanding Universe. I wonder how much of our world’s worry is related to a sense of our insignificance in the vastness of this realm which results from forgetting the intimate presence of its Creator. I sense a call for me and my communities to be prophetic and be witnesses of the humility, wonder and gratitude required of worthy stewards entrusted with mysteries great and small.
The last Sunday of February is the day for St Pat’s Race Club, Yea, to hold its annual day of picnic (horse) races – fundraising for parish and school. I look back at my stewardship with wonder and thanks for the jobs with which I was entrusted – driving the courtesy bus between the town centre and the track and then driving on the track itself to take the racing stewards to their viewing platforms before each race. The latter task was a last-minute surprise and caused me to worry if there would be time to do both tasks before the first race. All went well and I enjoyed driving at 50km/hr on the grass and viewing some of the races from the towers. The Spirit was giving me a different perspective on common events and the watchfulness required to ensure justice.
I enjoyed the day around the races, even the helping with some of the clean-up and preparation before and after. Another enjoyable moment came on Friday when I was in conversation with another brother and we spoke of our lives as religious and as servants. I came away with a sense of my need to watch out for more opportunities to ‘be brother’ as both steward and companion. The One who knows my needs will have many more surprises for me and my communities when I trust my heart (and its ‘brain’) with its connection to the essence of creation.
May each of us grow in faith that even today’s ‘troubles’ are opportunities to cooperate in our evolution into Sacred Unity.
Reflection, 19 February 2017. (Mt 5:38-48)
To all of us, the wisdom of the heart-brain bringing all together in awareness of our Father’s perfection. I sense that Jesus in today’s gospel is urging us as individuals and as communities to move from the justice of retribution to that of restoration and further with efforts (and praying) to bring even ‘enemies’ into deepening relationship with themselves, with us as fellow humans and ultimately with Sacred Presence. I read in Leviticus that I can be guilty of ‘sin’ if I do not speak with my neighbour concerning his or her offences and I dare to imagine Jesus doing that through any words of encouragement which I could utter. I have tried to tell myself that ‘I am better than that’ on many occasions and can remember saying something similar to students in school and elsewhere. I trust that I am growing in my ability to engage my heart much more in the circumstance of today.
I think of Jesus’ way of teaching his way of understanding and living Law and then I wonder about all the protocols and ‘best practices’ being talked about concerning child protection. I listen and look for any Church people to bring into focus the core mission of the Body of Christ and wonder how far we have strayed from his Way and how much more of a distraction all these extra regulations may become. I sense that there is appropriate head-wisdom in it all yet it can still be foolishness without heart-wisdom. I look back to the opportunities I have enjoyed of talking about Jesus and the Gospel and I sense a growing desire in me to do so again. I wonder where Mystery and the power of Spirit are moving for me and my communities.
Albert Einstein was one of the greats of head-wisdom and contributed much to how we see creation. He proposed theories of relativity which included his insights into the relationship between energy and mass. Relativity can be seen as a universal law of creation describing how our Universe has been evolving since the first fundamental particles emerged within the original ball of expanding energy. Others continue his work of trying to develop a unified theory of everything. He set out as a young man to solve problems in the worlds of science and maths. I sense that Jesus has given us a fundamental pattern in his own life, death and resurrection with his simple (and difficult) command to love God and neighbour (including enemies). He tells us of the Divine Presence in the temple of our hearts as well as in everything around us and he demonstrates how it works to solve the problems we are bound to meet.
I was reminded of a significant ‘enemy’ of mine when talking with my spiritual director and it is within me – the part of me which says, “You don’t care!” under my breath to people I meet. In learning to love this inner voice and welcoming him to my heart space, I touch the shame of my frailty and its effects. I see Jesus in this Gospel passage highlighting for the offender the shame of being slapped, of being sued for one’s coat, for being forced to ‘go one mile’ – and the shame is an invitation to relationship, to making a friend of the perpetrator. I am reminded that the Creator does care – for me and through me – and so everyone can be better.
May each of us grow as images of the Trinity through the shame of the cross, our Way into the heart-realm of Love.
Reflection, 12 Feb 2017. (Mt 5:17-37)
To all of us, the maturity of living the law written on our hearts. I continue to wonder about my ‘heart-brain’ and how I can engage it in those moments when I feel anger, lust or the shame of things I want to cover-up. The first reading tells me that I have the freedom and power to choose and St. Paul suggests that using these gifts is to be wise and mature in faith. In one translation, he talks of ‘what no human heart conceived . . . what God has prepared for those who love . . . ’ and perhaps part of the Spirit’s work is to provide the response of surprising grace in those moments of human frailty. This ‘heart-law’ would be very much alive and active in every here-and-now and it may be that a breath of Ruah is the only requirement.
The issue of maturity was highlighted for me on Saturday as I joined other brothers in Melbourne to celebrate jubilees of life in and with the Congregation – 50, 60 and 70 years since leaving home ‘to come and see’ the mysteries of consecrated living. There were photos and stories as well as gratefulness for support and care in community and now I wonder what I would like to celebrate if and when my time comes (not too far away). I consider the essential aspect of following Jesus, of being ‘in Christ’ and learning to love as he loves. In some ways, my life is an ongoing novitiate and one adventure leads to the next – and the lessons unfold through those episodes and moments of fragility with their opportunities for forgiveness and Mercy. Perhaps I and my communities can celebrate entry into a new way of living which engages the heart-brain through the trials of global warming and child abuse – and other signs immaturity.
Charles Darwin, born 12 Feb 1809, used his gifts and trials to propose his ideas of ‘natural selection’ and of humans being descended from ape-like animals when most of his contemporaries were addicted to old and comforting ideas of creation and superiority. He came to his theories through his own observations and the expertise of others who studied his collections of animals, plants and fossils. He seems to have reached the conclusion that life was a matter of chance variations passed down the generations which enabled the survival of some. I wonder if the deeper truth, in Jesus’ way of understanding ‘law’, includes notions of a Loving Creator who cares for all and who celebrates difference and evolving complexity.
Darwin, about 200 years ago, and Paul, about 2000 years ago, give witness to maturity and being fully alive as members of the human race. I give thanks for the episodes in my life when I have chosen life-giving ‘water’ rather than destructive ‘fire’ and become more of a brother to others. I wish to celebrate more of the conversations like one I enjoyed on Saturday with a brother who shares some of my hopes and dreams and to celebrate more steps into the Realm of the heart-brain.
May each of us grow and evolve as disciples who love, live and teach according to the Trinity dancing in the depths of our being.
Reflection, 5 February 2017. (Mt 5:13-16)
To all of us and our communities, the grace to grow as salt and light in our world. I have been reading about the call to be a religious, to be ‘brother’ to Jesus and to creation. This notion challenges me to treat every person as equal and different, as someone who may need comfort or challenge and as someone who can do the same for me – as someone who is ‘family’ and community member. It seems as though Jesus is telling us that his family is already salt and light and that these familial relationships demonstrate if we are ‘tasteless’, ‘under a tub’ or in tune with him. I sense that I can be any of these at different times of the day – thanks to Mercy.
On Thursday, I went to pick up a chainsaw which needed servicing after cutting up much firewood and detoured to see the movie, ‘Lion’ – the story of a boy lost in India, adopted by an Australian family and feeling the need as a young man to find his birth mother – his family and his home. It is as though his life was ‘tasteless’ and in the dark until he could bring his head and his heart together as one. Then he could be a joyful, shining light to family and friends, old and new. I suspect that it is this uniting of heart and head which is the essence of all the readings of today and every day and which defines faith when they are focused on the good news of the crucified and risen Christ.
Isaac Newton is one of many who help us see the world differently – he even believed light to be made of up of particles. He gave us new ‘eyes’ in the forms of the reflecting telescope and calculus (both of great benefit for the navigation of ships at sea) and pointed out the fundamental role of gravity in the motions of celestial bodies. As I reflect on his work, I wonder about the unseen world of Love at the heart of the Universe and its power of attraction – and how Love is the essence of being ‘salt’ and ‘light’ to Earth and the actions which flow from this reality. I am finding that the opening of my ‘new eyes’ is an ongoing and usually painful task of evolution and, again, involves the work of Mercy.
As we enter the time of hearing the reports of the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Abuse here in Australia, and the uncertainties of fake news and President Trump, I continue to wonder how much these and much more are symptoms of the lack of ‘salt’ and ‘light’ even in the Church and how much we need the renewed eyes to see the navigations of the Spirit through the darkness. I wonder if we will hear of Love and Forgiveness even spoken in Paul’s ‘fear and trembling’ as those who are the tiny grains and particles respond ‘in Christ’ for the sake of Sacred Unity.
May each of us open our minds and hearts each day to the salt and light in and around us.
Reflection, 29 January 2017. (Mt 5:1-12)
To all of us, the humility to seek the blessings, joy and wisdom of boasting in Christ. We heard in our homily today a challenge to be open about our going to Mass and belonging to our Catholic community. Afterwards, I was speaking with a man who is a fairly regular visitor to Yea and who is committed to sharing his faith in his home town and in the local prison. I enjoyed his story of the positive impact which Mass in the gaol is having on some inmates and was even a little jealous of the opportunities he has to live out the Beatitudes. He seemed to me to be ‘boasting about the Lord’ without using those words and as though it is the natural thing to do.
I can look back over my life and recognise many movements of the Spirit in my activities and now I wonder how much it is ‘natural’ for me to allow this ‘fire’ to grow in my heart so that my presence in the world evolves into something of a different quality and into something more spontaneous and joyful. There is so much in the Beatitudes which speaks of the inner world and how to be more like Jesus as his way of living is described in them. I can see it beginning to happen in my better moments even as I spent too much time catching my longings and frustrations. I did ‘blessed’ on Monday when I worked with a man with limited mental ability who occasionally visits our place and he helped me shift gravel and move a load of firewood into our wood shed. (He did take some firewood home.) I am learning the power of presence and wonder what further lessons will come regarding mourning, meekness, hungering for justice, mercy and much more.
While these attributes seem ‘natural’ when they appear, the deeper challenge for me is to live them in our world with its certitudes, addictions and concerns for security and the ‘good life’ free of pain and suffering. I think of Copernicus and Galileo five hundred or so years ago who were ‘blessed’ with insights which brought opposition from other scientists and from Church authorities. They were part of the early stages of us humans seeing the world differently and their inner worlds needed to expand as their understandings of the ‘universe’ (the solar system) grew so that they could be true to themselves. I can imagine that they were able to live the Beatitudes more faithfully through their struggles which would have been at least as unwelcome as any which come my way. All of us have much to learn about being ‘in Christ’ and true to our nature and it seems as though forms of the cross are necessary and inevitable.
May each of us be more open to the blessings which enable us to accept humbly that Love and Wisdom are at work in all the happenings of existence.
The Beatitudes as inspired by the original Aramaic
(Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.)
Fulfilled are those who devote themselves to the link of Spirit;
the design of the universe is rendered through them.
(Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.)
Healed are those who weep for their frustrated desire;
they shall see the face of fulfilment in a new form.
(Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.)
Healthy are those who have softened what is rigid within;
they shall receive physical vigour and strength from the universe.
(Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.)
Happy are they who long deeply for a world of right relationships;
they shall be encircled by the birth of a new society.
(Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.)
Healthy are they who from the inner womb birth forth compassion;
they shall feel its warm arms embracing them.
(Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.)
Happy are they whose passion radiates with deep abiding purpose;
they shall envision the furthest extent of life’s wealth.
(Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called sons and daughters of God.)
Healed are those who bear the fruit of sympathy and safety for all;
they shall hasten the coming of God’s new creation.
(Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.)
Healing to those who have been shattered within – from seeking wholesome rest;
theirs is the ruling principle of the Cosmos.
(Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.)
Blessed are you when you are reproached and driven away by the clamour of evil on all sides, for my sake. Know deep joy even in your loss for this is the secret for claiming your expanded home in the universe; it is a sign of the prophets and prophetesses to feel the disunity around them intensely.
(Based on Neil Douglas-Klotz, Prayers of the Cosmos, HarperSanFrancisco, 1990, pp.44-76)
Reflection, 22 January 2017. (Mt 4:12-23)
To all of us, the grace to follow immediately when the Christ-light calls. In today’s Gospel story, Jesus calls four fishermen – he chooses them and they respond. I wonder how much it was for them a choice and how much it was a matter of sensing that this was the only option offering a different future. These pairs of brothers did not know that they were being led into a new family of faith and that the cross was foundational. The fullness of their repentance, their metanoia, will take many years and their focus will evolve from the world of lake and fish to the nations and peoples of every land. Those of us aware of being in Christ continue the task and it seems to be a ‘choice-less choice’ of response.
During the week, I investigated buying a new pair of shoes and faced choices. I came to the conclusion that I did not really need them and chose not to buy anything. I was reading a Richard Rohr work and reflected that I had faced the anxiety of too many choices – a feeling which may be common and increasing in our society, an aspect of the darkness which is inherent in creation. From Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, it seems to be almost inherent in us to opt for lesser ‘lights’ (which still have value) while avoiding the fullness of what it means to be ‘follower’ and fully alive in a Universe which includes light and dark as well as joy and sorrow.
My own ‘repentance’ continues as I long to fulfil my dreamings while being taught what it means to belong to the Christ family which has its own dreams and rhythms of unfolding. My moments of resentment and frustration become signals that I am not following and not believing in the Presence of Love. This continues the ‘not knowing’ of those first disciples, of the Corinthians and most of human history. It includes the consequences of all choices, all made with limited foresight, some in the Light of faith and most in the shadows of self-centredness. I sense that I am one of many who regularly choose the comforts of addictions in the face of the anxieties of consumerism, global warming, terrorism, abuse, neglect and much more. I am learning that, with breath and awareness, I can live out of the Christ story and take all concerns to my heart where Spirit dwells.
One event which highlights the consequences of acting with very limited knowledge was the bubonic plague in Europe between 1347 and 1352 when possibly 60% of the population was killed by a bacterium carried by fleas on rats, especially on ships. It seems to have originated in Russia near the Caspian Sea, been carried across the Black Sea to Constantinople and on many more trading vessels to Europe, the Middle East and North Africa – all beyond anyone’s understanding. Ships were the fastest means of travel and this fact caused me to reflect on the fastest means of communication today and the effects seen and unseen of the internet (with its ‘darknet’ side). As it was for the people and animals of seven hundred years ago, we are all vulnerable to physical realities inherent in the laws of nature. Just as fleas hiding in luggage and clothing spread the plague, we may be involved unknowingly in the disasters of today.
May each of us live in and as the Light to the nations and grow in the faith which includes the cross.
Reflection, 8 Jan 2017. (Epiphany)
To each of us, the flow of treasures offered to Jesus, the Cosmic Christ. I wonder about all the comings and goings highlighted in today’s readings which mention light, nations, kings, mystery, an infant (king), Magi, chief priests and scribes, a star and a dream. I sense myself joining in the search for answers to my longings and questions and then being challenged to ‘open my treasure chest’ and to bring out whatever I have received which will ‘pay homage’ – life-enhancing homage – to this fragile Presence who is Lord.
The song of the ‘Little Drummer Boy’ is one I listen to at this time of year as it touches me with its image of the simple gift being returned to the Giver. In the last five days, we have hosted several guests here at Glenburn and one of them was my sister. My ways of ‘paying homage’ to the greatest of all gifts included showing her around the property and pointing out some of the special attractions on offer as well as sharing reflections and some of the songs which encourage me on my journey. I sense that one of my greatest treasures is my story – my encounters with various aspects of the Life and Love of the Trinity. With this, I can share the flow of grace and guidance which carries all to resurrection.
The dimensions of this ‘Flow’ stretch from the original light of the Universe to dreams in the darkness of sleep. Those participating in it will see stories in the stars and meanings hidden in ancient prophecies and new-born babies. There are dangers to avoid by taking different ways than those which have brought us to these moments of ‘homage’ and I wonder what lies ahead for our common home in these times of global warming and increasing scapegoating. I dare to believe that ‘all is well’ in the bigger picture where Mystery can use even the plans of tyrants and false kings to continue the evolution of Love.
For all who participate in the Christ story, there are choices to be made – for Herod, the Magi, Mary and for me and my communities. I trust that, often enough, I will choose to make good use of whatever I have of ‘patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ – inherent gifts of the indwelling Spirit.
May each of us grow in peace and joy as our hidden treasures are revealed and offered for the sake of the Shepherd and all his sheep.
Reflection, 1 January 2017. Mother.
To each of us shepherds, the blessing of peace. I give thanks to the Trinity for the sense of being shepherded during the last week with Christmas, the anniversary of my mother’s death, my birthday and the promises of a new year and unfolding Mystery. It seems to be a time of returning to the energies and happenings which were the launch-pad for my life and of growing in trust that all is well. The Shepherd has been leading me through all of it and is still inviting me to participate in Cosmic Incarnation.
I reflect with wonder and thanks on the dimensions of mothering I have received, from the Universe, Mother Earth, Mum and now the ‘Holy Mother of God’ and the ‘mother tongue’ of each (with thanks to Ron Rolheiser). At its heart, it is about those ‘who with infinite patience, understanding, and gentleness, are trying to coax us out of the darkness, inarticulateness, deafness, and chaos into which we were born’ – through their words and voices. I see glimpses of this as my niece speaks to her fourteen month old son and imagine that it was the same for my mother and me. It is about ‘entering the world of self-expression, thought, and conscious love’ and is an ongoing journey through light and darkness. I am only beginning to fall into relationships with fellow travellers of all species and our common home – and I give thanks to Mother Earth for the diversity I hear and see every day.
I wonder how much it is the task of Mary, Mother of the Christ, to coax me into ever-deepening relationship with her son with her ‘mother tongue’ which continues to become the ‘language’ for me and my communities. In the Gospels, she says things like, “Let it happen as you say!” and also there seem to be times when the tongue is still and silence takes over so that pondering in the heart can happen. It becomes an awakening to all dimensions of Creation, inner and outer, and I am aware that I have been slow to ‘hasten’ as the shepherds did to her presence in the lowly place of the feeding trough where new life brings peace and joy.
To be a shepherd, then, includes heeding Divine messages in haste, telling the story, treasuring and pondering in hope and going out to live in ways which shepherd others into love and freedom through the ‘mother tongue’ of Mary and the Spirit.
May all of us rejoice in being lowly shepherds entrusted with this living story of blessing and peace.
Reflection, 25 December 2016. (Christmas)
To each of us, the faith and humility to participate joyfully in ongoing incarnation. A few weeks ago, in the middle of Advent, I received an email which is a partial confirmation that my hopes and expectations for the future are not going to be realised in the coming year or two, if at all. I felt sad and angry and became aware that I was slipping into depression. I reflected on the story of Joseph and I wonder if he shared some of those emotions on hearing that Mary was pregnant. He made an effort to escape his sense of shame and powerlessness only to find that Divine Love had other plans – plans which include giving up control and trusting the bigger story all the way to the cross and to resurrection.
In this bigger picture, any suffering of mine is an element of the pain of our groaning, evolving Universe and common home. The story of Jesus says that it is a prerequisite for new life and the new life for Joseph, Mary and their baby is infinitely greater than they could imagine. I return to the hope which says that the suffering of the ‘holy innocents’ of two thousand years ago and of today continues to proclaim the path of incarnation taken by the Cosmic Christ. I dare to believe that new life is happening in and around me as I wait in hope for it to be revealed. Now I am excited with my desire for deeper relationships and with my fear of the letting-go which this way entails.
I have much to learn about the Love who is found outside the inn and in a manger, a feeding trough. This is not the place where most travellers are to be found and it is an echo of the nourishment available to all those who seek humbly and in vulnerability. I am encouraged to keep up some sort of conversation with the Trinity who work powerfully in weakness and emptiness and to risk hearing their responses to my complaints, loneliness, fears and moments of shame. For Joseph, the new was born between possible scandal and heeding a dream; Jesus was crucified between brigands who had opposing attitudes to life; perhaps the same is true for me and my communities as we journey together for the sake of our common home.
May all of us continue to grow and evolve as incarnated beings through the joys and sorrows we share in Christ.
Reflection, 11 December 2016. (Mt 11:2-11)
To each of us, the sight to see the Divine Presence bringing healing and wholeness to all life in and around us. As I reflect on the ‘wilderness and dry-lands’ in and around me and my communities these days with summer turning the local countryside to brown, stories of terrorism, abuse and environmental devastation and with my occasional feelings of helplessness, fear and anger, I wonder at the size of the need for healing and reconciliation everywhere. It seems impossible that the necessary changes of hearts, minds and actions can happen in time to avoid a near-death experience for our common home. Yet today’s readings make bold and joyful promises and challenges to faith and patience. I dare to hold on tenuously to my own imaginings of participating in the ongoing work of the Cosmic Christ.
Today’s homily challenges me to let go of my expectations and to keep looking for where this work is happening, as Jesus’ message to John the Baptist says. I still have remnants of my self-made ‘prison’ and I do see love and grace flowing. My own break-out has included hours of mowing with tractor and slasher as well as our ride-on mower while keeping watch to avoid wild flowers bringing their beauty to this property. Now it is early summer and, as we head for a warmer and drier few months, the poor of Earth will include more of the flora and fauna of this region as well as those feeling left out during the Christmas season. The Good News is still to be proclaimed to all creation and I wonder what it says today.
I think of Moses and wonder about the ‘new’ Moses, the Cosmic Christ, who is still loving and shepherding all of Life on an exodus to Resurrection. Like that early prophet and guide, there is a need to approach and see the bush ‘burning’ from the inside and inspiring awe. There is a growing urgency that our common home be set free from those who make themselves into gods and who are to be told the Good News for all our sakes. There is still a ‘fire by night and a column of smoke by day’ when we perceive it with our inner eyes. There is a Command to Love written on our hearts because it is written throughout the Universe. We are still called to journey as children with faith in the counsel and wisdom of the Mystery we call God and Father/Mother and whom we know through Jesus, the Human One.
My sense is that I and my communities will be beyond slavery when these topics are part of our ordinary conversations and inspirations for living. I pray for the patience of the farmer in the second reading and for the grace to follow the signs into unknown surprises with my own expectations in mind and love in my heart.
May all of us embrace the suffering and healing written into Creation as the way of peace and joy.
Reflection, 4 December 2016. (Mt 3:1-12)
To each of us, the fire and Spirit of Jesus’ baptism. I have just returned from a week’s retreat with the theme of the unfolding story of Love in the Universe. In its own way, it was an experience of being immersed in the powers of creation as we sheltered through the winds, thunder and lightning of three storms as well as touching the silent stillness of love bringing healing and new life to the our Earth and to depths of our own stories. I think of the great need for the call from both John and Jesus to metanoia and to awareness of the bigger picture where the consequences of narrow self-interest are presenting growing threats to our common home at the same time as many engage in acts of self-giving in tune with the dance towards wholeness within the Mystery we call God.
On three mornings during the week, I scrambled up the mountain but on only two of those occasions did I wander over the gentle slopes of the top. I reflected that it is the first part of the climb – mountain and metanoia – which is the hardest (on this mountain, that includes moments of what is almost hands-and-knees) while the high point to which I came for the first time seemed to be ‘ordinary’ with no view and offering nothing more than a sense of achievement. I did find a place where I took off my shoes and danced a few steps on the grass to celebrate the gifts of health, nature, community and mountains of all shapes and sizes. I sense a challenge for me to make it an ‘ordinary’ thing to engage with these sorts of happenings in conversations, rituals and simple encounters back here after negotiating the dangers of the descent.
On the last day of the retreat, I reflected on how Love could unfold in my life now and into the future. I received a significant answer in my spiritual direction session when it was suggested that I focus on giving my inner child the love he missed out on, that I become the loving ‘parent’ – especially Mother – and nurture play, joy, exploring and much more. Perhaps this is part of raising up ‘a child of Abraham’ from a stone, as John says in the Gospel. This inner healing then contributes to the growing complexity of consciousness which seems to be essential if we are to survive and thrive through these Anthropocene times.
About 11,000 years ago, hunter-gathers in the Fertile Crescent in Turkey began constructing some sort of ‘holy place’ (thought to be the first ‘temple’ on Earth) at Gobekli Tepe and left carved markings on the monoliths of animals such as lions, spiders, snakes and scorpions which would be dangerous and most likely the cause of many illnesses and deaths. It may have been a burial site, a small hill with a view over the fertile valleys which sustained them. Those studying the site today wonder if the efforts to shape, transport and erect the stones into circles may have been the impetus which inspired farming which ‘began’ about 500 years later. The workers would have needed food and shelter and this would require some organisation and changes in their ways of thinking and living. It is possible that the Neolithic Age began with this sort of sacred site construction which was possible in the climate of the times and which arose from a felt need to engage with the bigger picture and Mystery of life. I wonder what lessons there are here for us, for me, today.
The first thought which has come to my mind is the possibility of bringing images of our sacred mother Earth, our common home, into our places of worship while we also look to take more of our rituals out into places of natural beauty.
May all of us grow in awareness of being completely immersed in the Creator Spirit whose fire brings life to the full.
Reflection, 20 November 2016. (Jesus, King of the Universe)
To each of us, the joy of being remembered by Jesus. I have been wondering about what title I prefer to give to Jesus and I am uncomfortable with ‘king’ and some of its limitations. One word I came across is ‘Cosmocrator’ (Ruler of the Universe) and I like the sense of mystery which it gives. I still tend to use ‘Cosmic Christ’ which is profound and more easily said than the phrase ‘Ultimate Authority’ or ‘Ultimate Author’ that came to my mind. I look at the criminal who participates in the last recorded conversation with Jesus and how he uses no titles even as he is aware of the reality behind all of them. This is a ‘king’ who is in intimate relationship with everything ‘created through him and for him’ and who responds joyfully to those who use his name sincerely and in faith. I suspect that a variety of titles will help to reveal different aspects of his ‘fullness of God’.
The power and vulnerability of this ‘author of life’ is demonstrated in the movie ‘Hacksaw Ridge’ which I saw earlier in the week. Desmond believes in non-violence and commits himself to joining the US army in WWII and serving as a medic. After many trials, he finds himself on Okinawa and saving lives as he maintains his faith and conversations with his Christian God. He becomes a very small light in the darkness of a bloody battle – a light which is not overcome. The human face of Christ and the faces of many soldiers ‘remember’ him as he lives within his own inner ‘paradise’ while ‘hell’ happens all around.
Desmond seems to be seeking peace and redemption for instances of violence and shame in his childhood – to be re-membered in the sense of being made whole and to come into his own fullness. I see this as a mirror of the ‘One’ through whom all diversity came into existence and in whom all will be unified again – the journey from singularity to a oneness embracing multiplicity. Jesus on the cross demonstrates how it is done through the mercy he offers to the believing and repentant criminal. I sense it in my own life as I welcome different energies and archetypes to my inner table and attempt to follow ‘Healing Presence’ into an uncertain future.
Healing Love is of the essence of our Sacred Earth and the stories of Desmond and the crucified criminal tell what is needed for it to flow fully. On ABC TV during the week, I watched the Catalyst program on the Anthropocene, the name given by a group of scientists to the epoch into which our planet is transitioning as human activity degrades its life-systems. I recommend the program and the website [ http://www.anthropocene.info/ ] as introductions to the possible ‘bloody battles’ of today and the future both near and far as well as inner and outer. There are many ‘tiny lights’ shining in the gloom and I pray that I can grow as one of them, shedding the ‘Divine Light’ of repentance, faith and mercy in my little corner of creation.
May all of us grow as those who remember and are re-membered by Jesus, Loving Presence who rejoices on the cross.
Reflection, 13 November 2016. (Lk 21:5-19)
To each of us, the grace of endurance on the journey of living life fully. I was glad to be reminded, a couple of times, by our parish priest in his homily today that the important thing is to get up and keep going each time I ‘fall’ as I try to ‘win my life’ – or to live fully, as it occurred to me. I look back over this day and am aware of many cycles of falling and rising – and how the key is to accept each present moment as an opportunity for love to flow. I am quick to blow little circumstances into ‘wars, plagues, famines’ and much more, and I wonder that Jesus says that these ‘must happen’ and how they invite the perseverance which is his Reign of Empowerment, i.e. having life to the full. This helps me make sense of the Year of Mercy.
Yesterday was quite different as I took on the role of driving the courtesy bus for the Yea picnic races. As I was waiting for passengers at the racetrack at the end of the day, the thought in my mind was that this was something of an ‘addicts’ heaven’ with its good times, alcohol and betting. It’s an attempt to live life fully just for a day before returning to life as usual with memories of the past and hopes for the future amidst blotting out the present. This describes some of my ‘falls’, my attempts to avoid my hurts and fears and it encourages me to recall the ‘risings’ with their healings and new life, all of which occur ‘in Christ’ and through endurance.
I wonder about the anger and fear that is characterising so much of the politics around the world, especially in the USA presidential election. The ‘success’ of people like Donald Trump seems to me to have come from support from those who believe that ‘he’ can ‘make things great again’ without acknowledging the implication that it is not ‘great’ now and that there are significant issues to confront. There are ‘wars and revolutions’ happening, including terrorism, waves of asylum seekers and climate change, all of which can engender fear and hopelessness which the princes of this world are not facing with understanding, love and compassion. Our One Lord calls not for scapegoating but for the endurance which is characteristic of the ever-growing complexity of our evolving Universe.
There have been humans in Australia for perhaps seventy thousand years and they have endured much in that time, including the original sea crossing and the recent and ongoing invasion of different cultures and technologies. I think of Lake Mungo and how it has changed over thousands of years from a location of abundance and diversity to a place of wind-blown sand and desert-like vegetation. Indigenous Australians have lessons for us about what is important if we are going to endure and evolve together with our landscapes and they will include deep listening, hope, faith, cooperation and participation in unfolding Mystery. What began as small groups adjusting to life on different continents is becoming a matter of the human race having to live together for the sake of our common home.
I sense a call to live with hope and joy and to proclaim the repentance necessary if all beings on Earth are to live life fully through the great changes of these times. I am fearful of the ‘persecutions’ and likely ‘opportunities to bear witness’ to the Cosmic Christ which are coming from those in denial and seeking scapegoats.
May all of us evolve in love and endurance all the way into resurrection-life.
Reflection, 6 November 2016. (Lk 20:27-38)
To each of us, the grace of stepping fully into resurrection-life in every present moment. A week after my mountain-top experience in Queensland, I find myself back in Glenburn where everything is green, parts are soaking wet and parts are drying out, and where at least five trees have been blown over, unable to hang on to the soft soil. I have bursaring work and other familiar tasks to do and it seems as though my dream is on hold – and I am reminded by St Paul about the love and comfort of being ‘in Christ’ as the USA highlights deep divisions in our world. The need to believe in and proclaim the power and presence of the resurrected Jesus seems to be growing daily.
On Friday, I was able to visit a couple of cemeteries where some of my ancestors are buried and I was aware of my desire to be faithful to the heritage I have received from them and to be open to their presence as I live our shared beliefs. I describe them as pioneers, Irish migrants in the late nineteenth century who developed land for farming and educated their descendants who continue to serve their new home and the church in many ways. In a sense, their resurrection-life continues in my efforts to live a new way of being a religious and ‘brother to the world’ where fear, anger and the desire to be in control seem to have swamped any sense of a Sacred Unity.
The Sadducees in the Gospel story highlight that at least there was talk of resurrection in Jesus’ time and provide an opportunity for him to remind them of the ‘God of the living’ and to remind me of the human love which is only a shadow of the Great Love holding all of life into existence. This is the relationship we cannot avoid even though we can live in it with complete lack of awareness with our focus on the desires of the small self. My fears do kick in when I wonder about proclaiming love and resurrection in this world and yet I am excited in that challenge.
During the week, I saw the movie ‘Deepwater Horizon’ which highlights the consequences of a focus on money at all costs – consequences for individuals and for the environment. The desire for ‘more’ is inherent in us and we need the awareness that the greatest good includes the spiritual dimension and a picture the size of the Universe. That desire took our ancestors out of Africa perhaps seventy thousand years ago, possibly in a near extinction event or ice age, in the footsteps of other waves of migration beginning perhaps two million years ago. All descendants of the earlier hominids are extinct except for a few genes in us ‘homo sapiens’ and I can imagine that the challenges of new and different land and climates were instrumental in the development of the variety of cultures around our common home. I sense that it is the same desire in me as I look to new horizons with new stories and ways of proclaiming eternal truths.
May all of us live one step at a time in the promise and present reality of resurrection with the joy and hope that will inspire others into life-giving relationships with the Universe Being.
Reflection, 30 October 2016. (Lk 19:1-10)
To each of us, the perseverance even to climb trees of thorns to see Jesus, the Christ. During the last six weeks, instead of trees, I did walk, scramble, ‘climb’ up Mt Archer (near Brisbane) where I was participating in an experience of renewing brotherhood and community life with eight other Christian brothers (and various ‘guides’ from our network of co-creators). The climb becomes symbolic of my efforts on the inner mountain of taking steps along ‘my way into the future’ and living life more fully.
The Zacchaeus who climbed a tree is more likely to have been a faithful ‘son of Abraham’ doing a job that caused resentment in others, earning a good income and sharing perhaps half of it with the poor beyond the requirements of the Law. He is confident that he has not defrauded anyone and, if he has, will more than make up for it. He has reached the point of dissatisfaction with this ‘first half’ of his life and is looking for something more meaningful and he wonders if Jesus is as good as they say. He wants ‘to see’ him and his wholeness and is prepared to put his whole being, body, mind, heart and soul, into the search. He is a symbol for me of entering the second half of life as I and others were doing at Mt Archer as we looked backwards ‘from the top of the ridge’ and also looked ahead down into the mists of Mystery.
On occasions over the six week, I helped in the early stages of establishing a ‘cosmic spiral’ – marking it out and digging out some bigger rocks. It is a work in progress as are all of us and the Universe whose story it helps to tell. One aspect of my own ‘mountain to climb’ was using the unfinished spiral to tell my own 15-minute version of the story of Creation as my final presentation to the group on the last day of our shared experience. I told most of what I had planned and later wondered about an aspect I did not have in mind. I reflected about Ardi and Lucy as representatives of our early human ancestors (4.4 and 3.2 million years ago) and wondered about the mutations which lead down the years to us. I can imagine the possibility that some genes might have been switched off so that they did not go down the track of becoming the physically different ‘silverback’ adults and that they remained as playful and inquisitive individuals able to pass on these characteristics to succeeding generations, including Zacchaeus and us who look for more in life, climbing trees and mountains.
Two weeks ago, one brother spoke of it being time for him to move out of the city and go to more remote places where he can follow his own new way into the future. The thought in my mind on hearing those words is that it is time for me to return to the city with my growth and learning and to make a contribution there to changing hearts and minds and to being ‘guide’ for others looking for more. Several times during the six weeks I spoke of fumbling and stumbling one step at a time as the Spirit leads us into the mists of Mystery and I sense that this is Sacred Unity’s way for me to evolve in tune with the urge I felt when I left Timor-Leste five years ago to ‘do something’ about the crises of these times, especially global warming and climate change. Two days after the notion of ‘city’ popped up, I was with four others attending a people’s tribunal in the Supreme Court building in Brisbane hearing stories and hopes of Earth laws and the rights of nature. The Spirit can indeed move quickly.
The message and invitation of the last six weeks has been for me and my communities to participate consciously in co-creating this part of the Universe in the midst of terrorism, violence, extinctions and abuse of many kinds. I suspect that even Zacchaeus joined in this task in new ways after his encounter with Jesus.
May we persevere in our efforts to see the Cosmic Christ present and loving in and all around us.
Reflection, 11 September 2016. (Lk 15:1-32)
To each of us, the joy and celebration of reclaiming Life. I have enjoyed the days we have had with the school students, partly because of their youthful energy and partly because of the little insights that come to me as I try to tell them about some significant themes of the Universe story. I trust that the Spirit can do something great through my brief efforts and continue the unfolding of what seems to me to be a 13.8 billion-year construction event from sub-atomic particles to elements to compounds to living organisms to us humans who, in the likeness and image of the Creator, have the inherent ability to choose – and to love. I wonder if this hidden (‘lost’) capability is the real object of the search of both shepherd and woman in Jesus’ parables – something of great value which is really just out of sight until the appropriate desire takes over.
I suspect that the ‘prodigal son’ was searching for this life and love in all the wrong places until he realised his mistake, repented and returned to the starting point of home where it had been present always yet hidden from his eyes. The thing of great value for both sons and for us is the life and love of relationship with the Creator. There are times when I am the elder son with resentment as the log in my eyes and there are increasing times when I breathe in the Spirit (as I invite the students to do) and touch that Life deep inside. Each occasion becomes a moment of evolution into living life more fully and indicates the right and proper cause for celebration when both heaven and earth are revealed as the one Realm of Love.
This was highlighted for me when I chose to present the story to the students more in my own way rather than follow almost slavishly what I thought others expected of me. After my first couple of sessions, I changed location, simplified the activity and found myself enjoying much more the engagement with the young people. I was searching inside for my unique self and touched it and so had reason to celebrate my own step forward into Life as well as my providing encouragement and opportunity for others to make their own steps in this evolutionary journey.
One aspect of the story which I found myself mentioning frequently is that of the physical hunger driving much of the process where life-forms and species move into new ecosystems and adapt through successful mutations. I sense in creation an inherent hunger or desire for the fullness of life which Jesus describes in parables to invite us to risk the steps into his ‘ecosystem’ and I wonder how much this is what Paul means when he says that Christ is here to ‘save sinners’ – to provide the encouragement and opportunity to seek inside for what is waiting to be found.
May all of us celebrate more and more the steps we take with others into the Realm of Love and Life.
“When you pray, enter your secret room, and when you have shut the door, pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” [Mt 6:6]
When you want to lay yourself open for the divine,
like a snare that is hollowed out to its depths,
like a canopy that projects a shadow
from the divine heat and light
into your soul,
then go into your inner place,
to that story or symbol that reminds you of the sacred.
Close the doors of your awareness
to the public person you think yourself to be.
Pray to the parent of creation with your inner sense,
the outer senses turned within.
Veiling yourself, the mystery may be unveiled through you.
By opening yourself to the flow of the sacred,
somewhere, resounding in some inner form,
the swell of the divine ocean can move through you.
The breathing life of all reveals itself
in the way you live your life.
(The Hidden Gospel: Decoding the Spiritual Message of the Aramaic Jesus. Neil Douglas-Klotz p61,62)
Reflection, 4 September 2016. (Lk 14:25-33)
To each of us, the grace to grow ‘in Christ’ as a disciple who carries an all-embracing cross. As I reflected on the sense of the ‘hate’ to which Jesus calls us, it occurred to me that he and his disciples are to love ALL which means that we seek what is most life-giving for every being, including ourselves. This will most likely involve speaking uncomfortable truths and making tough decisions. This is the sort of cross we will carry together in communities and share with Jesus who promises that it will be light and easy when we do so and that it brings his peace. The real difficulty, at least for me, is to live as fully as possible in each present moment, aware of his presence.
I listen with interest to the priest in his sermon talking about Onesimus and his name meaning ‘useful and beneficial servant’ and I wondered about him being a willing slave, happy to do the best possible for his master and to do so with life-long commitment. I can imagine Paul introducing Onesimus to a different Master offering a deeper sense of service and the blessing of forgiveness. Onesimus might return to Philemon and he will still be a servant – to a higher Lord – as well as being ‘a brother in Christ’ and one able to live as the kind of disciple described by Jesus in today’s Gospel. He will be able to carry his cross in new ways, including the spreading of the Reign of Empowerment.
I have been busy in the past week preparing for a series of retreat days with year 9 students from a Melbourne Catholic college. I have the sense that this is a here-and-now cross which includes elements of trepidation and excitement of the kind experienced by both Paul and Onesimus – and perhaps even by Jesus, the one we aim to follow. I have about 35 to 45 minutes, four times a day for five days, to introduce the students to the Universe story and to do so with a touch of spirituality in the midst of science and adolescent energies. I wonder if this is a sign of things to come as we face together ‘in Christ’ the circumstances of our world with its mixture of violence and climate change as well as the greatness of thousands of saints, from St Teresa of Calcutta to the families and carers of all young people and ‘Our Common Home.’
Our created world seems to have an inherent quality of being able to find a way through any challenge as it unfolds in Love and complexity. I think of the advance of the first plants surviving on dry land as life moved out of the waters and encountering the challenges of gravity and desiccation. Most likely, many perished before those with appropriate mutations succeeded in passing on their advantages to the stage where we enjoy tall trees and forests – and the many benefits they offer to our physical and spiritual well-being. I give thanks for the opportunity to pass on some of my learnings and sense of hope to the young people coming in the next two weeks and I wait with expectation to see where my Master is leading me and my communities.
May all of us grow in gratitude for our crosses and their joys as we serve the Creator present in every dimension of our common home.
Reflection, 28 August 2016. (Lk 14:1,7-14)
To each of us, the blessings of moving higher through deepening self-giving within the Companionship of Empowerment. Jesus’ parable invites me to look more closely at those whom I seek to impress and those with whom I seek to avoid confrontation and disagreement. If I am to follow his way, then I will focus on Sacred Unity in and around me and grow according to my true Self. In this gospel reading, Jesus is calling the Pharisees and all of us into obedience to the Law of Love which involves faith in divine Presence and desire for what is life-giving for everyone, especially the poor, crippled, lame and blind. This is participation in resurrection-life ‘here and now’ with the power and humility of ‘the city of the living God’ where all are in the dance of needs and responsibilities.
Like some of those at the meal, I can find myself too often sitting back and watching to see what might happen ‘out there’ and what those ‘in Christ’ are doing in response to his words. I can get offended when my ‘watching’ is interrupted by invitations to serve in the little ways that include sweeping, vacuuming, feeding chooks, chopping fire wood, chauffeuring and cooking – all of which happened in the last week. I wonder about other services I performed and whether they are ‘higher’ forms – sitting and chatting at our local ecumenical dinner as well as preparing the PowerPoint and playing the music for Mass. Perhaps all have a deeper significance and consequence of which I may never be aware because they all make space for the Spirit who hovers in each happening to move in me and in others.
Another aspect of Jesus’ parable may be that the invitations and the seeking of honour are about families, groups and even nations – including the Chosen People of his day and of these days. I like to imagine myself as one of the ‘loved and chosen’ as are my communities with their collective responsibilities to care for our common home – and with their sense of entitlement to comfortable yet simple lifestyles. I sense a call for a table-fellowship which is more challenging as Jesus was (and is) and more counter-cultural and passionate with its stories, parables and empowering relationships. I see this as the kind of service portrayed by Luke as the way for Jesus and for his ‘family’ to adopt and adapt for different circumstances.
I think of those mutations and adaptations throughout evolution which served an original purpose and were passed down to countless succeeding generations who found new ways to benefit from them which were unimaginable in the beginning. It seems as though the ‘feet and arms’ of tetrapods were developments which may have helped fish in ways such as swimming in muddy shallows or anchoring themselves to the bottom in strong currents (where their food came to them) or as ‘sit-and-wait’ predators pouncing very quickly on their prey. Perhaps many centuries later, these became the four legs of amphibians who lived and moved in water as well as on land. There are many unanswered questions about these transitions just as there are mysteries about how our small actions ‘in Christ’ will be of benefit to our neighbours, present and future. It is only the Universe Being who knows the place of honour that each has as creation and complexity unfold.
May all of us grow in our self-giving and faith as we live and move together in this world of incarnation and resurrection.
Reflection, 21 August 2016. (Lk 13:22-30)
To each of us, passage through the narrow door to intimacy with Jesus. It may be that he was asked for his view on what many believed – that, indeed, only a few would ‘be saved’ – and he knows that ‘salvation’ is available for all if they will accept the challenges and disciplines of Love. It is not enough even to ‘eat and drink’ with him and to hear his teaching. The real intimacy involves sharing on many levels, including that of the stories which reveal our deeper selves and our moments of forgiveness and repentance. These are the ones whom Jesus recognises and welcomes to the Feast.
Four children from the one family were baptised during Mass today and many in the church were fascinated by the second youngest and his attempts to escape from his father and the whole show. It was a blessing for me to see the dad’s firm tenderness as well as the child’s moments of peaceful resting in his father’s arms. I see myself behaving like that little boy on a daily basis with occasions of evasion and of acceptance. I trust that the Divine Presence does know me and does welcome me and that the welcome includes loving training and disciplining for my sake and for the sake of those to whom I am sent. There are stories to tell and an important one is that of the ‘narrow door’ of receiving and giving Love.
I ask myself what Luke is saying to me about service in the Realm of Mystery and at its feast and I sense that telling these kinds of stories is part of it and that following the way of Jesus the prophet is most significant. Hearing his teaching and acting on it is what the disciplines of the door are about. The sharing of story and of food means that all of us and all of Life will benefit and we will do so in our unique ways just as plants and insects did perhaps 480 million years ago as they began to populate dry land. These two different forms of life seem to have been evolving together since then – in one sense, ‘needing’ each other for the explosions of diversity and complexity. It is possible that it was the development of trees and forests (about 406 million years ago) which provided stimulus and opportunities for the development of wings and flight – again so that the ‘feast of life’ could be shared in new ways. I am called to participate in this mutual enhancement and to proclaim in prophetic manner the choice and its consequences. The ‘door’ is narrow and many will choose to turn away while many others will stay in tune with the Universe Being and learn together to enjoy new ways of feasting and celebrating.
May all of us rejoice in the intimacy of needing and being needed as prophets in and with the Cosmic Christ.
Reflection, 14 August 2016. (Lk 12:49-53)
To each of us, the fire and baptism which brings the peace of Jesus. When I reflect on the fire of the Cosmic Christ, I wonder about the fireball that is the Universe, its incredibly hot beginning and its ‘fragment’ below our Earth’s crust and in the heat of all living bodies. Jesus and all of us exist in and through this ongoing event in which we both receive and emit the energies of transformation. We choose how we will participate and that choosing produces the divisions between those who put themselves and their comforts first and those who see their place in the great flow of One Love.
When I ask myself what this ‘fire’ might be like, I think of the difficult choices involved in faithful self-giving – being prophet like Jeremiah, advocating like Ebed-melech, Jesus’ humble washing of feet and proclaiming him as Lord. Today I participated in a ‘circle of empowerment’ with a small group of brothers and a question about ‘my agenda for the world’ which invited me to bring some sparks of this fire into this tiny part of our planet. I did speak about some of the ideas which ‘fire me up’ and it was as though the same ‘baptismal flames’ were purifying and strengthening me as I challenged others in the circle who also seemed to engage in the process of being ‘baptised’ and, like me, displayed some of the inner peace and joy promised elsewhere by Jesus. I came away with a sense of being in tune with the Spirit even though we cannot see where we are being led in the wilderness of child abuse, violence, terrorism and climate change. The ‘fire’ has not yet finished with us.
A further affirmation for me came when I returned home and we viewed Compass on ABC TV. It was an interview with Martin Sheen, ‘actor and activist’, and his return to the Catholic faith. He spoke effortlessly and joyfully about Jesus in his life and I sensed that we brothers could learn much from him about living in and through the fire of Jesus’ baptism. His faith and witness puts me and some of my communities to shame even as it encourages me to take more steps ‘in Christ.’
Countless little steps over at least three hundred million years as plants moved from seas to land resulted in new life-forms and different environments – a pattern of ‘division’ written into creation. As plants evolved and spread, it seems that they altered rock, formed soil and grew on the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, reducing the levels of this green-house gas to the extent that our planet became ‘Snowball Earth’ on several occasions. ‘Division’ gives impetus to creativity as circumstances change, species die and the ‘new’ are given opportunities to evolve and flourish. I see something of this process in the story of Jesus and his followers who make the choice to be ‘in Christ’ – especially at this time of a warming planet which is calling for the prophets, advocates and humble servants of Sacred Unity to listen deeply and to participate with trust in its unfolding.
May all of us grow as instruments of the divisive fire transforming our inner and outer worlds into places of life, love and true peace.
Reflection, 7 August 2016. (Lk 12:32-48)
To each of us, the flow of the food which empowers us to be alert and knowing servants of Oneness. As I read Luke’s gospel these days, I am beginning to ask myself what it is saying about service and I see that both the returning master and the steward (in the longer reading) are about feeding the members of the household. I sense that this ‘daily bread’ is more about nourishment for our spiritual journey than simply about physical care (which is still important). One aspect of this is that of building faith and trust for those waiting in the midst of abuse and suffering. Another must be the forgiveness we need when we neglect this duty and even when we are agents of abuse in any of its forms, including using others and the resources of Earth for our own pleasure and comfort.
One of the ways in which I participate in the flow of ‘daily food’ is when I put out seeds for the parrots, galahs, rosellas, pigeons and magpies. Often, I would like to throw it around and keep going about what is on my agenda but I see that the most tentative birds, the king parrots, will miss out. One pair of them have learnt that they can get the best results when they come and eat out of the hand and so I take the time to stay and ‘serve’ them and to reflect on what is happening around me. It seems most natural to be concerned about food and keeping oneself alive as the birds squabble and chase each other away from ‘their’ feeding ground. So it is most natural to be concerned about spiritual nourishment for oneself and this involves the much bigger picture of mutual relationships and interdependence. The Spirit is the unlimited food for all and is best served on a ‘take and give’ basis in which I am called to be open to receive and then to allow the energy to flow ‘out of my hand’ to whoever and whatever is my neighbour at that moment. I give thanks for these gentle teachers and their lessons.
I can think that I am slow to learn and to grow as a servant of Love until I consider the millions of years of evolution which produced my hands. It seems that over 300 million years ago, fish were adapting to living in fresh water rivers and creeks which could stop flowing and lose much of their dissolved oxygen on which the fish depended for survival. Those with the ‘mutations’ which led to lungs could survive and then those with stronger bones in their fins could move better on land between different bodies of remaining water. Those with wrists and digits had a greater advantage which allowed them to spend more time out of the water in the search for food – and so life continued to evolve all the way to my hands feeding birds, fish and fellow human beings. The Flow has an inevitable and forward trajectory even as my life seems to go round in circles as the lessons ‘slowly’ sink in.
Jesus speaks of being ready for the master’s appearing and we can expect him to appear in many different forms. The food to share will include seeds, mercy, faith, hope and even stories – his, ours and creation’s. The worst aspect of the ‘burglar’ might be that any of these elements are removed out of the flow of take-and-give.
May all of us grow as servants of Sacred Unity where we receive ‘daily bread’ humbly and allow all of it to flow through our hands all the way to resurrection.
Reflection, 31 July 2016. (Lk 12:13-21)
To each of us, the grace of being in tune with the treasures of Unity’s realm. The voice in the crowd offered Jesus a position of esteem by asking him to be ‘judge’ – a person of integrity who would listen and decide wisely and whose decision would be accepted. Jesus refused and continued his customary role as teacher and prophet, telling the story of one who thought that the only riches are in the material sphere and inviting those listening to him to remember the ultimate treasure of being in the realm of the Holy One.
I have just been ‘on retreat’ for two days where we reflected on aspects of the Universe Story and evolution. I wondered what it might mean to be ‘rich in God’s sight’ – to be in the Reign of Empowerment – and thought of the contrast between the one who wanted to relax and have a good time and the other who desires to grow and evolve all the way to resurrection. The first imagines that he has achieved all there is to achieve and plans for a future which will maintain this ‘status quo’ of perceived wealth and privilege. Jesus, Paul and even the author of Ecclesiastes speak of the continuing work and effort of being ‘in Christ’ and evolving the new self and I come away with a growing sense of participating in the immense Life of the Universe Being and responding to the challenge to allow it to flow in and through me.
The retreat was a brief exploration of what we Christian Brothers call ‘Our Way Into The Future’ with the Mystery we call God. That word ‘with’ spoke to me of the essence of this task and I imagine that it involves trusting that the inherent Love at the heart of creation is guiding our dream and working to realise it here and now. The first reading describes one who ‘works with wisdom, knowledge and skill’ and whose efforts will reward those who come after. This is not ‘vanity’ or ‘useless’ when it is in tune with our unfolding Universe; it is ‘in vain’ when the work is done with worry and resentment (as I am prone to do) and with no recognition of the Creator Spirit rejoicing at every advance.
The entire story of evolution tells of steps into increasing complexity with complete ‘unknowing’ of what the next stage will be. Part of the skill may to be to live in the present moment with the treasure of the peace which only the Cosmic Christ can provide. One such ‘step’ would be the myriad small mutations occurring over thousands of years in which our earliest fish-like ancestors evolved with vertebrae and with muscles attached to the outside of this structure and yet inside their bodies. I can imagine the increasing power for mobility as they use much more of their bodies to swim as fish do today. Five hundred million years ago, there would be no idea that one development of this step is in my fingers as they press the letters on my computer keyboard.
I read one commentary on these readings which noted that it is natural to feel special and deserving like the rich man in the parable. I read recently that this is the temptation of being ‘on top a high mountain looking down on all the kingdoms of the world’ and the antidote is to remember that everyone and all things, living and non-living, are just a special and loved by our Creator. My challenge is to act more and more in the belief that each action, especially those done ‘in Christ’, is a contribution to a future that is beyond imagination (as I did on Thursday when I helped on a cementing job at our parish church).
May all of us grow in the joy and peace of participating in Mystery.
Reflection 24 July 2016 (Lk 11:1-13)
To each of us, the fullness of the Spirit who shows us how to be children of Abba Love. The disciples ask for a lesson from Jesus and note that John also taught about prayer. I suspect that all disciples need to learn the lesson and be ready to teach from their own experience. My own learning continues as I grow in appreciation that I am loved in every moment and circumstance by the Holy One whose realm is all-encompassing. In and with the Spirit, I can see that nourishment for my true self is available ‘daily’, that forgiveness is assured and that all this is here, now, when I breathe the Breath of Ruah like a child with complete trust in a doting parent.
The insight which allows me to ‘see’ in this manner seems to me to be the latest development in the evolution of eyes which began perhaps seven hundred million years ago when creatures were able to make use of photo-receptor proteins – ‘eyespots’ – to distinguish between light and dark, day and night, and to move for better access to sunlight for photosynthesis and to establish the beginning of circadian rhythms. The innate desires for increased energy and for new life continue today in our seeking the Realm of Spirit through our praying and our creativity.
On Friday evening and into Saturday, I attended the EarthSong Symposium with its title, ‘Celebrating the Life of Insects.’ We heard much about the way these creatures use sight for hunting and for protection and we were introduced to ‘A Moth Liturgy’ which is a series of ‘photographs’ created without the use of a camera (by Harry Nankin). Just like those first photosensitive cells receiving the energy of light directly from their environment, this modern creativity uses the light of a flash (once used in conjunction with a camera) to shine directly onto the subject with the film or sensor behind to make a negative. In this case, the subjects are Bogong moths whose shadows then appear and can be developed onto photographic paper with startling results.
The effect is to stimulate wonder and to move the participants in the ‘liturgy’ into action which might avert the ‘tragedy’ of losing these life forms and all other creatures which rely on them for food. We heard the story of the moths’ migration and diminishing habitat. It is a call to repentance and to a sense of ‘communion’ with our environment with its increasing dependence on us humans. I reflected at the time on the similarities with our catholic ritual and how this ‘moth liturgy’ pointed to the essence of liturgy with its ‘coming together’ and ‘sending forth’ to make a difference – to make our Father’s ‘reign’ become more real and present. This ‘Presence and Power’ is all around us and we have the ‘eyespots’ to ‘see’ it with our hearts and minds if we choose – and persistently ask for the grace to do so.
May all of us be more and more open to receiving the Spirit no matter what we ask for.
O Breathing Life
The Lord’s Prayer – Mt 6:9-13, Lk 11:2-4
O Breathing Life, your name shines everywhere!
Release a space to plant your presence here.
Envision your “I Can” now.
Embody your desire in every light and form.
Grow through us this moment’s bread and wisdom.
Untie the knots of failure binding us as we release the strands we hold of others’ faults.
Help us not to forget our source, yet free us from not being in the present moment.
From you arises every vision, power and song from gathering to gathering.
Amen – May our future actions grow from here!
(Neil Douglas-Klotz, “Desert Wisdom” p 236)
Reflection, 10 July 2016. (Lk 10:25-37)
To each of us, the grace to live a life of spiritual maturity and greater complexity. On Thursday, I attended ‘A Day with Ron Rolheiser’ where he gave us two talks, each with a time for questions and discussion. The first was on the issue of carrying ‘biblically’ the scandal of child abuse and this was followed by a session on Christian discipleship. I came away with a sense of excitement and challenge and reflected that it may be a modern-day version of the parable in today’s Gospel.
Children around the world are being abused in all sorts of ways including sexual abuse, domestic violence, war, terrorism, climate change, racism and much more. They are having their childhood stripped away and they are being robbed by those seeking their own lost innocence. The consequences as they grow into adults include suicide and abuse of self, others and the environment. Like the Samaritan, we cannot pass by. The issues are not distractions from our Christian lives – the victims and perpetrators (themselves victims) are our ministry, especially when we see them on our way to and from ‘Jerusalem’, the place of crucifixion and resurrection.
The early stages of the spiritual life are about growing in wisdom, strength and knowledge (of the Law). Jesus invites the lawyer to go beyond the basic understanding of purity laws which were most important for the priest and the Levite. A more mature spirituality involves ‘giving one’s life away’ and doing the loving acts of pity, mercy and healing when they are needed. It becomes a more complex way of living which includes seeing all life as our neighbours, listening to the law in our mouths and hearts and appreciating our life ‘in Christ’ and our own roles as victim and perpetrator.
I suspect that the ‘hole’ in my childhood will continue to be the wound through which I encounter the Christ and his healing and through which I will grow in understanding something of the power of embracing my cross and how I can participate in the body which has Jesus as head. I wonder how much of the work will involve the telling of stories such as those of Jesus and his parables, my own story and those of my communities, especially the story of the common ground for all of us – the story of our Universe and Cosmic Christ. My wounded child, like all wounded children, echoes the pain of creation and the healing of one is the healing of all. All need first aid on the spot and to be taken to the ultimate innkeeper.
Life on Earth began as single cells which were the only life-forms for at least a billion years. Possibly as early as 2.1 billion years ago, these cells began to ‘live together’ and to begin the process of communicating (through a flow of chemicals) and taking up different functions. One estimate is that multi-cellular life-forms may have evolved at least 46 times – another sign of the inherent thrust and creativity of the Universe Being. Now I wonder about our aggregating as members of the body, the Church, just as our inner selves of light and shadow gather to contribute to a full and mature life.
In Ron Rolheiser’s view, only those touching this level of maturity are capable of ‘giving away their death’ as an optimal blessing to their world. This is where ‘crucifixion’ is done ‘to us’ and faith has us wait passively – blood and water flow from a dead body. I am still struggling at the earlier stage of the activity of the Samaritan and can only pray that I continue to receive inner healing for my hidden wounds and grow with the wonder of the eternal child.
May all of us evolve as children of wonder and joy, growing in appreciation of the Mystery in and around us.
Reflection, 3 July 2016. (Lk 10:1-12, 17-20)
To each of us, the peace of labouring in and for the companionship of empowerment. I have just been to a gathering of family and friends celebrating sixty years since my now deceased brother-in-law was born. Three generations were present with baby Harry there and being a centre of attention – and recalling now for me Isaiah’s image of mother ‘Jerusalem’ nourishing and comforting all of us who go to her. I sense that this is what it means to have ‘our names written in heaven’ – that our Mother God continues to ‘nurse’ us as we grow and evolve into living fully.
One of the family friends present is a politician who has just been re-elected to his seat in our Australian parliament so there was some chat around the ups and downs of politics. I mentioned my notion that a significant issue around the world is that of the lack of meaningful rites of initiation, especially for boys and young men, where they are taught what it is ‘to live fully’ – where life is not all about you, that suffering is part of the process and that death is certain (with thanks to Richard Rohr). Paul in the second reading seems to say something similar using words like ‘the cross of Christ’ and ‘new creation’ and I imagine Jesus and him being ‘fully initiated’ with their names ‘written’ as they go about their work of service. I do put my brother-in-law in the same category when I consider his love and integrity as husband, father and unashamedly Catholic bio-ethicist.
I am reading the early chapters of a book, “Heart and Mind” (by Alexander Shaia), and finding it to be exciting and revealing as he describes the four Gospels making up one ‘good news’ story which parallels the processes of initiation. Matthew is about invitation and the promise of new creation; Mark has a strong theme of suffering and persecution; John includes reflections on Love and then Luke tells of being ‘on the way’ – like today’s reading – and the service of healing and proclaiming. As I reflect on my last few days, I see the echoes of John and greater understanding (from the book) followed by a moment of being chosen and ‘appointed’ to tell a couple of people about the book over the coming week. I sense a small cycle of my transformation within much larger cycles stretching back over decades. I have great reason to rejoice and be grateful that my name, too, is being ‘written in the heaven’ of here and now.
These cycles are ongoing for me and my communities even as I wait and listen for those whom I can accompany – ‘in pairs’ – into the great harvest. Individuals working in partnership seems to have been going on for possibly over 3 billion years since one simple cell was absorbed by another and was able to survive and become the nucleus of a eukaryotic cell (as many scientists suspect). The arrangement became mutually beneficial, increased the complexity of life and Love, and enhanced the memory power of our DNA. Life was able to live more fully than before. The four stages of initiation may be inherent in the existence of all being. We are alive when we allow the cycles to flow in and around us.
May all of us grow as joyful lambs labouring in the harvest of new creation in the worlds of both matter and spirit.
Reflection, 26 June 2016. (Lk 9:51-62)
To each of us, the freedom to commit fully to our Jerusalem journey in Christ. Jesus had a deep sense of what he was ‘chosen’ for and knew that he had to go to fulfil his destiny, as did Elisha when he followed Elijah. I wonder how much the depth of that awareness came from a life of being chosen and affirmed for all sorts of tasks and roles from childhood to adulthood. I wonder because my own sense of being chosen has not been strong and I have patterns in my life where I can too easily miss opportunities and sit by the way watching as life goes by. This then becomes a matter to take to Jesus for the healing which only he can provide. It becomes a matter of not looking back – of ‘setting my face’ for whatever it takes to be ‘servant’ as Elisha was.
A word that has stayed with me over the last few days is ‘patience’ – as I wonder if anything is being healed and what service I may be able to do. I want to ‘bury the dead’ from my childhood and he tells me to leave that behind. I sense that, as a disciple (like James and John), I am called to participate in understanding and forgiveness – beginning with myself and my failings and stumbles – and this is what I can pass on to those I meet on the road. It is a slow, on-going process of which most people today are unaware and which I am called to live and share. Much of the recent news seems to be about divisions within countries where many want easy answers and immediate results. Being chosen to ‘proclaim the Kingdom’ in these circumstances is as significant as it was years ago in Samaria and even more challenging.
On Friday, our extended community came together for a ‘spirituality circle’ and what emerged, especially for me, was the call to ‘mirror’ our life in the Spirit who brings resurrection out of suffering. The divisions and turmoil of our world, micro and macro, are regions with great potential for new creation and our evolution as a species and for me and my communities when we participate in the process. I am learning that I am not alone on the journey and that the sharing of our stories does help to bring healing to perceived divisions and to open new possibilities.
There were most likely billions of bacteria in the oceans about 3 billion years ago and most were producing a waste product called oxygen. Over time, this gas resulted in the oxidation of minerals, especially iron, which fell to the sea floor, cleaning up the water – one profound use of a waste product as well as giving us the iron ore we use today. Once this task was largely accomplished, the oxygen could enter the atmosphere where it began to accumulate and help to make up the air we breathe – another wonderful result. At the same time, its ability to oxidise was killing most life-forms and threatening complete extinction until (most likely) one individual bacteria had the appropriate components and molecular structure to use the oxygen as a source of energy, perhaps 2 billion years ago, and to pass that capability down the generations to us.
This story tells of Great Patience as well as an inherent creativity and commitment to the evolution of our Universe through individual beings – all the way to the transformation of resurrection beyond ‘Jerusalem’. I pray that I can believe more and more in the Creator who loves in this way – who loves me and all my communities with their necessary differences and divisions.
May all of us grow in our participation in this living story of the Cosmic Christ.
Reflection, 19 June 2016. (Lk 9:18-24)
To each of us, the grace to claim Jesus as Messiah and to give our lives for all that matters to him. On Tuesday, I went to Queenscliff (as driver) for a meeting of directors of spirituality centres in and around Melbourne. I was privileged to see two centres in the area and to listen to several directors speak about their work. One common theme was that of the ‘searching’ which brings many people to these places for prayer, silence and companionship. This search continues the efforts of the disciples in this gospel story who find that meeting Jesus involves significant challenges as well.
My sense of the challenge facing me (and my communities) is to move more often and more deeply through the sorts of questions Jesus asks. My answers become more meaningful as they move from head to heart: “Jesus is the Christ!” => “Jesus is my Lord!” => “Jesus, you are my Lord – and my friend!” Then comes the matter of taking up the cross of my fears and resentments as I follow him, letting go of my hopes and plans in order to touch the lives of others with the great news of his love. Zechariah tells me that this Lord has poured out a spirit of kindness and prayer so that I can know what to do – and also know when to mourn for the wounds I cause when I look the wrong way.
Jesus was ‘praying alone’ with the disciples nearby and I can imagine him wanting them to join him and to understand his Messiahship. I imagine that the questions he asked came out of his prayerful listening (and supplication) as a way of inviting them to a different way of seeing and believing which they must come to by their own efforts. I can rejoice in the Spirit who does help me to mourn and to walk the way of forgiveness and I sense Jesus ‘nearby’ wanting me to join him in the listening, questioning and walking. This is the never-ending search for what matters to Jesus – and that includes disciples (like me and my communities), neighbours and all of creation.
The search for the energy to move, grow and evolve has been foundational to living being for at least 3.4 billion years on Earth. The first bacteria might have found it in chemical reactions involving sulphur and evolved an almost infinite variety of forms until one was able to make use of sunlight’s energy to ‘excite’ electrons – the beginnings of photosynthesis. The search results in new forms as well as new challenges. Some are finding energy by consuming other beings and there is the slow build-up of dangerous oxygen in the atmosphere. Jesus promises the presence of the same guiding Spirit for us to find the energy to overcome all challenges as we follow him – all the way to Resurrection.
May all of us grow in hope and faith in following the Cosmic Christ who asks powerful questions so that his friends may live life fully.
Reflection, 12 June 2016. (Lk 7:36–8:3)
To each of us, the grace of faith in our stories of forgiveness. The first reading tells of David’s repentance and forgiveness which came after Nathan told him a story about a wealthy landlord who took a lamb from his poor neighbour. Paul had his own story of metanoia with his appreciation that faith in Christ is the fulfilment of the Law which he had studied and followed so diligently. Jesus tells Simon a story to invite him to see his situation of debt and forgiveness and I can imagine that the woman who washed, kissed and anointed his feet had heard stories from the women (like Mary Magdalene) who had experienced love and forgiveness and were enthusiastic to share the blessings. These seem to be the stories that feed the faith that empowers us debtors to go to Jesus in humility and gratitude and to continue in his company with our own stories to tell.
I seem to have a never-ending supply of stories in which I need forgiveness, especially for my fears, resentments and judgements. I participated in an EarthSong event on Wednesday which focussed on ‘mind’ and one activity was to go to the nearby park and reflect on the connections between all the beings encountered there. As I took my first few steps onto the grass, I became aware of swallows flying around and even flying a couple of metres away from me. I observed them with their colours, speed, glides and swoops and I gave thanks for their presence. As I was leaving the park after about half an hour, I heard a familiar bird-call and looked around to see some black cockatoos flying past. As I reflected on these experiences, I thought of not knowing where these birds have come from or where they are going to. I was privileged to see a tiny fraction of their lives, their stories, as I am privileged to see small aspects of the lives of people who ‘fly’ into my life. My mind tends to see these little bits as being the whole and repeat the old, dysfunctional thought patterns. Stories, reflection and contemplation seem to be key elements in my story of metanoia and learning to see as “I Am” sees.
The most significant element in the growth and evolution of me and my communities is the Cosmic Christ living in and around all of us. This has been so since the beginning of space-time and especially since the self-organising dynamics of creation resulted in the first forms of life, the bacteria who fed on heavy metals and energetic molecules. These beings have the capacity to discern what to consume and what to leave alone – the beginnings of ‘mind’ and the choices we make. I suspect that to be fully alive is to keep making life-enhancing choices about the stories we ‘eat’ for sustenance and energy and that the greatest story in which to participate is that of the self-sacrificing Christ. David, Paul and various women around Jesus set the example and we do not know what Simon chose. It is enough to make small decisions as they are needed in response to each little debt being cancelled.
David was able to say that he had ‘sinned against the Lord’ and not just against Bathsheba and Uriah. By realigning himself with the bigger story, he made space for the Spirit to move, as did the others. Jesus’ story includes ‘proclaiming and bringing the good news’ to his people in Galilee and Judea and continues when I and my communities tell our stories to his people – all of creation – today.
May all of us participate more and more fully in living and proclaiming our stories of faith and forgiveness ‘in Christ!’
Reflection, 5 June 2016. (Sacred Heart)
To each of us, the new life flowing from the compassionate heart of our Cosmic Christ. As we here live in the parish of the Sacred Heart (Yea), we followed up a school para-liturgy on Friday with a parish celebration today which included a first Eucharist for one boy and was followed by a big morning tea (brunch). I reflected on both sets of readings (Friday’s and Sunday’s) and can imagine it was the Love in Jesus’ heart and even deeper in his essence which reached out to the widow from Nain and brought her son back from death and restored both of them to life-giving relationships with family and community. It is this power flowing through this ‘great prophet’ that we need more than ever as we also celebrate World Environment Day and consider the many forms of death eating away at hope, faith and interdependence.
The storms of the last few days have brought death and destruction to parts of this country and it is most likely that there will be more such weather events in coming years. I read about the self-organising dynamics of our Universe which are replicated from the atoms to galaxies and I wonder how much it is that death is a cessation of this energy. Elijah and Jesus demonstrate what can happen to reenergise the organism or system when Love and compassion are focussed on those in need. I wonder if the storms and other effects of climate change are the consequence of ‘self-love’ which carries its own energies and enhances the destructive dimension of the dynamics.
All the dynamics require fuel and I sense that it is Christ’s Body, including his heart, which is the food for this era when our species grows in awareness of its role of co-creating in and with the Spirit. We are already influencing the life-systems of Earth and we need Wisdom to do so according to the ‘best practices’ of the Holy One. New life comes to sons and widows when the power which overcomes death is invoked. It is the great prophets and their followers – like Paul – who are called and sent to tell the good news of this dynamic and to participate in its dance through darkness to light.
Somehow I am caught up in these dynamics and have a role to play ‘in Christ’ which will grow and evolve to the extent that I can open myself to the love of the Sacred Heart. I sense my own sadness at my parents’ deaths and also at the lifeless parts within my being. Perhaps I am called to honour that sadness as a dimension of the feelings of loss and lifelessness in my communities and world. Then I can participate in the great surprises which happen when Jesus arrives at the ‘gate’ – the place of Divine Justice and Healing. I give thanks for all the blessings of life in and around me and I pray that I can do so in word and deed.
May all of us live our lives of joyful Resurrection within the heart of the Compassionate One.
Reflection, 29 May 2016. (Body and Blood of Christ)
To each of us, nourishment at the Banquet of the Cosmic Christ. This morning, I attended a brothers’ gathering in Melbourne where we were invited to take further steps on transforming our hearts and minds. Our focus for at least the next four years will be on empowering ourselves in ‘Spirituality Circles’ and we were introduced to how this might work. There was a ‘demonstration’ of a circle in practice and then we all participated in one for a short time with five or six other brothers. We received a focus question and involved ourselves in ‘a conversation which can make a difference’ – and even be a source of nourishment for our lives together.
I came away feeling hopeful and even affirmed that many of us desire something like this and are willing to open up. I reflected later that it was like scratching the surface of our corporate ‘body’ and finding that there is indeed the ‘life-blood’ flowing out of sight and ready to pour out on companions – especially those ‘in Christ’ who have made a commitment to our common life. In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks and heals. Our efforts to speak about the Mystery present in our journey together did seem to bring the sort of healing which includes the joy and connection of our shared brotherhood. I look forward to more of these ‘circles of empowerment’ in the years ahead.
Jesus’ ‘command’ to his followers is to give ‘food’ to those who seek him and this, too, seems to be what happened in our circles. The bread and fish speak of the Matter and Flow of our Universe – bread from the land representing our material world and fish from the waters representing the ‘flow’ of the Spirit inherent in creation. The new covenant says that all of this empowerment is available to us and that our being ‘in Christ’ is about participating consciously in its unfolding. When we do so ‘in remembrance’ of him, we participate in his self-giving love and through his intimate relationship with “I Am” who cares for us in every dimension of our existence.
A common theme in all the readings is that of giving and receiving – blessings, story, ritual, thanks, body, cup, loaves and fish. I ask myself what it is that I am receiving and handing on as a disciple. Over the years it seems to have been all of these at different times even as I know that my hands are not always open. I do give thanks for the mercy I receive and pray that my faith grows more and that I learn how to proclaim better Jesus’ death (and Resurrection) in my words and deeds.
May all of us be filled in every way by Matter and Flow, land and oceans, circles and companions.
Reflection, 22 May 2016. (Most Holy Trinity)
To each of us, the truth of the Trinity in our lives. I have been wondering about the ‘trinities’ of my life and I came to the One ‘who was, who is and who is to come’ – a past, a present and a future somehow coming together in me and in all the creation to which I belong. I have a beginning which can be traced back to the Wisdom who was present before space-time commenced and who is working here and now as our Universe is allured into its future of peace and glory. It is one immense event of playfulness and I participate more fully when I join in the ‘play’ and delight in its evolving mysteries.
I imagine a ‘trinity’ where One ‘gives birth’ to (2) an incarnation who is enlivened by (3) an indwelling fire of wisdom. I am a small-scale ‘image and likeness’ of this Universe Being and in need of many lessons about how to participate in its grandeur. I spend time occasionally researching my family tree and some time looking further back into the story of life on this Earth and its origin amongst the stars. I wonder about the challenges and the sufferings of all these forebears where endurance has produced ‘character’ of all kinds – an almost infinite variety of stars, planets and life-forms as well as stories of migrations, relationships, dysfunctions and successes. Hope has always been there even though it has had moments of faltering and failure. Self-giving Love continues to unfold and be known and I pray that I can participate more and more in its creativity.
I hear that in India this month they are experiencing heat waves with one city recording the country’s highest temperature on record – 51°. The call for conscious beings on Earth to practise self-giving love seems to be more urgent as the damaging effects of global warming increase. I can imagine a ‘trinity’ here of the Creator bringing about (2) new relationships and awareness through (3) the indwelling power of faith, hope and love. It is happening in small-scale ways for me and my communities and I pray that we can listen to the Spirit telling us of these things as they come.
I can see a ‘trinity’ of sorts involving life on Earth’s surface with its dependence on the energy of the Sun and on the geo-dynamo in its outer core. As a species, we seem to be growing in awareness of the dangers of too much of the Sun’s energy trapped in the atmosphere. The changes above the surface seem to be matched by changes below the surface as the combination of convection currents and the planet’s spin bring about a possible switch of its magnetic poles. These events have happened before and have their own roles in the play of the Universe Being who continues to delight in their effects.
May all of us rejoice in Wisdom’s work in and around us as we participate more and more in the Mystery of evolving Love.
Proverbs 8:22-24 – The “I” Joins the Journey [A midrashic, or interpretive, translation:]
“The LORD formed me from the beginning, before he created anything else. (22)
The Life behind Life, eternally now in past and present, possessed me at the beginning of beginnings:
As the first principle of setting up an ordered existence, this Universe Life Force absorbed me, Hokhmah, Holy Wisdom – Breath from Within and Underneath – into itself.
Cosmic appetite combined with the power of density, the desire to compress and condense,
and I – the first Interior Experience – joined the journey from the very start,
This was the first and most ancient mystery: how the power of growth can be contained and fixed around a centre, the identity of the self. This is the axis on which the universe turns. (22)
I was appointed in ages past, at the very first, before the earth began. (23)
I was born before the oceans were created, before the springs bubbled forth their waters. (24)
From the first gathering of sensing and feeling, I was poured out like a libation, a consecration of the cosmos. At that ancient pivotal moment, before particles or form were even imagined, I flowed out, baptising all in sacredness. (23)
This was even before the primordial abyss – that dark kernel of purpose – formed in the Universe’s heart. Even before this I danced into existence. When everything we call reality was still a “Not!”, when even the abundant springs of chaos had not yet begun to flow, I hoped, I waited, I twisted and turned, I struggled my way through the birth canal of the Holy One. (24)
(Neil Douglas-Klotz, “Desert Wisdom” p113-114)
Reflection, 15 May 2016. (Pentecost)
To each of us, the peace and power of breathing the Spirit of Oneness. I read that the fifty days from Passover to Pentecost, a first fruits’ festival, recall the fifty days of the Exodus from its beginning to Mt Sion and the Law. At its heart, it is about the way of life for the Chosen People and their relationship to the Creator – a way of gratitude and blessing. Jesus’ ‘ascending to heaven’ echoes Moses on the mountain and the ‘Law’ is now written on our hearts at the beginning of a ‘new creation’ with a deeper dimension of what it means to be ‘chosen’ in our unfolding Universe.
On Friday, I attended a workshop on Laudato Si’ and came away reflecting that what may be required for the health of ‘our common home’ is for the message of repentance to be taken to heart. On that first Pentecost of the Resurrection era, the believers were together in one place – a mark of the sense of oneness ‘in Christ’ that has been emerging since then. The Apostles were formally commissioned and sent, with Power, to preach and to forgive. The call to repentance remains and is still about turning from being self-centred to relationship with Sacred Unity and Love. The call from Pope Francis is see how this relationship includes all of creation with ourselves as one strand in the web. Jesus says that we are not alone, that we have a comforter, an advocate and helper. We as a species have the power to contribute to the work of creation and we see around us how that is being used in ways both life-enhancing and life-destroying.
On our walk around the Amberley property during the workshop, the Sun appeared amongst the clouds and I reflected that its light is essential for healthy eye-sight. It seems as though there is a growing, world-wide epidemic of short-sightedness because increasing numbers of children are not spending enough time in natural light for their eyes to develop according to the design of our genes. I wonder about the ‘short-sightedness’ which characterises the problems of our world and our environment as well as the suggestion that a significant way to change hearts and minds is to spend time ‘in nature’ and to develop relationships with special places. Being ‘outside in the Sun’ may be healthy for all our ways of seeing.
I wonder, too, about the peace which Jesus promises us when we spend time consciously in the presence of the One who is Love and who ‘comes home’ to us. A phrase used by Pope Francis is ‘integral ecology’ and I sense that this integrity includes our hearts and minds as much as our outer environment. I am challenged to ‘integral thinking’ which is beyond my procrastinations and my thoughts of resentment and anger with their disturbing presence. I give thanks for the peace which does rise when I take a deeper breath and act with good intention in the here-and-now.
I am challenged, too, to believe that the breath of the Spirit is more powerful than a supernova, the most powerful event in the Universe. This is an act of great creativity when a giant star produces all kinds of elements which did not exist until this time of violent and dramatic ‘self-sacrifice’ – a vital step in the creation of life. The power of attraction goes to work and produces stars like our Sun and solar systems with planets like Earth where life forms evolve to reflect that love consciously. The Spirit continues to bring about new entities and happenings such as songs, dreams, the aps in my new (and first) smart-phone – and the creative ways in which people work together to enhance the life of our common home.
May all of us grow in awareness of the Great One in whom we breathe and live in joyful peace.
Reflection, 8 May 2016. (Ascension)
To each of us, the power and wisdom to proclaim the intimate presence of the Cosmic Christ. On a couple of occasions in the last few days, I have come across the notion that it is necessary to know what one is ‘for’ even more than to proclaim what one is against. While it is a significant call in an election campaign, it is foundational in the life of a Christian and clear in today’s readings. I am challenged again to believe and to live, in word and deed, that I am loved and that the Spirit of Jesus is present to empower me to proclaim repentance, forgiveness and the peace and joy of being ‘in Christ.’
I had a taste of this today at a gathering of brothers with a focus on those who have abused children and how we relate to them. There was much to hear from members of the leadership team about protocols, principles and guidelines and I was one who spoke up to mention the spiritual dimension with particular reference to today’s Gospel. We were informed that this aspect is on the agenda for future gatherings, together and in communities, so I was glad and reassured that we are on the way of learning the lessons of the past. I felt an inner impulse to have my say and knew that doing so was part of my faith journey. I thought that I had stumbled too much over my words and can only trust that the Spirit does move with power to great effect in my weak efforts. I suspect that this is perhaps the only way in which the Companionship of Empowerment grows.
My ‘sin’ for many years has been to live out of a sense of separation from Divine Oneness who could not love me. I can look back and see what I missed seeing – the love and blessings which have carried me to the present and for which I can now give thanks. I have entered a certain level of ‘suffering’ as I take the risks of sharing my fears and cowardice and of speaking up about the empowerment of the way of forgiveness. I have a long way to go and look forward to further opportunities to be ‘witness’.
We have not seen much of the stars at night recently as the welcome rain keeps coming. I think of the night sky and the Milky Way – the ‘heavens’ to which Jesus ‘withdrew’ – out of sight even as his Spirit moves in ways which the eyes of faith can detect. Our home galaxy looks calm and peaceful in the night sky yet we are learning that it is enormously energetic and violently creative. Perhaps 90% of it is ‘dark matter’ which is essential to its existence and dynamics as is the supermassive black hole at its centre. Scientists suspect that it has already incorporated other galaxies in its 13.6 billion years and will collide with Andromeda in about 4 billion years’ time. This is where the Cosmic Christ is to be found and where we live, out towards its edge. This is what the Creator sees as being ‘very good’ and worthy of hearing the good news of Love. It is not just ‘the Law and the Prophets’ but the Universe as well telling us that suffering can herald resurrection at all levels, inner and outer.
May all of us participate more and more fully in the power of self-giving love in this earth/heaven of hope and joy.
Reflection, 1 May 2016. (Jn 14:23-29)
To each of us, the peace of keeping to the essentials of the Word and Realm of Love. I ‘was given’ an answer before I was aware of a question around how Jesus’ way of giving peace might be different from that of ‘the world’. A newsletter article reported that some researchers found that inner peace came from doing things for the benefit of others or of the environment. It did not come from efforts to relax or exercise or even healthy living, and certainly not from addictions. When I asked myself what the ‘essentials’ might include, I thought of ‘the washing of feet’ as well as the activities of the Beatitudes – all little acts of kindness which contribute to the peace of the Reign of Companionship and Empowerment.
The essentials listed in the reading from Acts seem to be about beliefs and practices associated with outer-directed religions whereas Jesus tells us that he and the Father-Mother of All will be at home within each of us and within our communities. The only essential is to believe in this Presence of Love and to live in and through its peace in all circumstances. I cannot imagine being able to do this in situations such as war which we remembered on Monday – ANZAC Day. I struggle to do it when arguments and disagreements arise and can remember ‘freezing’ when faced with violence. A little taste for me of stepping out to tell a story (as the Apostles did) occurred on Monday evening when I invited our overseas guests (two Indonesians and one African) to listen to songs which help the telling: ‘And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda’, ‘Waltzing Matilda’ itself (with words like swag, billabong, jumbuck, squatter, trooper) and ‘On Every ANZAC Day’. It proved to be an enjoyable occasion and I was aware of the life and peace being shared as I performed this small service.
I suspect that any little act inspired by the Spirit will lead to greater understanding and empowerment and will be in tune with our expanding and evolving Universe-home. I wonder about the size and richness of this outer home reflecting the energies of the inner ‘home’ when I consider Earth, its solar system and the Milky Way which belongs in a ‘Local Group’ of galaxies which, in turn, is part of the Virgo Supercluster (perhaps one hundred galaxies), which is located in ‘Laniakea’ (which means “Immeasurable Heavens”) – a giant supercluster (perhaps one hundred thousand galaxies) under the influence of a ‘Great Attractor’ and surrounded by other structures of similar size. I find myself challenged to believe that I am known and loved in this ‘holy city’ and that its glory, that of the Cosmic Christ, flows in and through me.
I wonder, too, about Jesus’ ‘word’ which I am to keep and I sense that it is the living ‘love’ – the flow of forgiveness and compassion at the heart of all creativity and of spontaneous deeds of kindness. I hear the Spirit reminding that it begins with my readiness to be forgiven and in my believing that my ‘sins’ are miniscule in the big picture and are even necessary within evolving creation.
May each of us live and grow within the one story of Presence both inner and outer.
Reflection, 24 April 2016. (Jn 13:31-35)
To each of us, the grace of participating in the glory of the Universe Being. On Friday, I returned from two weeks in Sunshine in time for the graduation ceremony and dinner for the participants in the Sacred Earth program. It was a moment of ‘glory’ for them as they looked back over their activities and efforts, received certificates and celebrated new friends and new learning. They have endured periods of work with reading, reflection and assignments. Their understanding of the Universe and of themselves as ‘universe’ has grown and evolved. I imagine that this is about revealing more of the ‘glory’ which each of us has and is as entities within the ongoing story of creation. As it was for Paul and Barnabas, it is really about what the Creator has done and continues to do in and through us and our communities.
I look to Jesus to see the ultimate example of the self-giving love which endures misunderstanding, rejection, suffering and death and, in doing so, reveals the true nature – the glory – of our universe. It is one and the same ‘glory’ for the Son of Man, for all and for the Source of All. I ask myself how he loves me and I recognise the servant ‘washing my feet’, teaching me (especially how to listen and pray), understanding and forgiving me, inviting me into intimacy with him and calling me to take these gifts to all of creation. In the homework project in which I ‘served’ over the last two weeks, I helped with a project on iron ore, another on how to make a drum pedal, and I kept the seven laptops going while engaging other young people. I did note that one of my main intentions was to bring enthusiasm and even joy to the students and to other volunteers. Perhaps this was really about revealing the glory in which we all live and have our being.
It seems to me that Jesus, Paul, Barnabas and all of us can expect the testing of hardships, persecutions and challenges as inherent in the Reign of Empowerment because they are inherent in the universe. When the expanding fire-ball was perhaps three hundred thousand years old, it began to break up into smaller ‘clouds’ thanks to density variations originating in its first shudder and flaring forth. Within these new entities, gravity/attraction was working to bring about the pressure required to ignite stars and to form clusters of stars and even clusters of galaxies. Our universe has always been a place of ‘violence and cauldrons’ leading to creativity which determines that all new ‘beings’ – from stars and galaxies down to us – will be different. Even the trials forming my own journey will be unique to me and one aspect of my struggle is the matter of accepting that they are inevitable and full of promise. My new heaven/earth is already emerging from glory/light and depends on ‘dark’ as well as Love.
On one day last week, in the space of a few minutes, the word ‘colour’ reinforced itself on my attention when it was the focus of two separate reading passages. I sensed a challenge for me to look out for the fresh colours of the new earth/heaven both within myself and in my world. I see them in the autumn leaves and the clear, blue skies and I wonder about the greys of my inner world as the temperature drops (4° this morning) and I revisit past circumstances and dream of future possibilities. Then the Spirit whispers about the opportunities for loving service and self-giving in each present moment and reminds me that I exist in Love’s glory where ‘all is well’ and my task is to believe.
May all of us grow in consciousness of Glory’s power and radiance at work in every circumstance of the evolving Cosmic Christ in whom we share resurrection.
Reflection, 17 April 2016. (Good Shepherd)
To each of us, the blessings of hearing and following the Shepherd’s voice. I have struggled to listen to this whisper over the last week as I have been in Sunshine where I lived two years ago and am using another brother’s room while he is away until the end of this week. It is quite a return to the past as I help out in the homework and tutoring project doing the jobs I used to do. Part of me says that I do not belong here anymore even as sometimes it seems that I have not been away. I have spent much of the last few years reflecting on possibilities for the future and where the Shepherd may be leading me and my communities and now I wonder what sharing of blessings is happening in the present moment.
While one member of the community here is away, it is also the time for another to finish and for his replacement to settle in. My presence is part of the mix of these changes and challenges which adds to my mix of excitement and unease as I join in activities of both community and ministry. I trust that the Spirit is at work creating new life for all. I have enjoyed the moments of working with young people, some familiar faces and others new, with a sense of gratitude for the privilege of being able to do so again. I am affirmed in what has happened in the past and its place in the foundations of the future. I wonder if this call to walk with others will evolve into new patterns as our world changes and the forces which threaten ‘death’ and to ‘steal from the Father’ grow in intensity.
I was able to share the interpretation, ‘The Creator of Ripeness’ (below), at a community prayer one morning and to receive others’ contributions on other days as we spent time together listening for the Shepherd’s voice and the Spirit’s movements. It was the words about the ‘freely given teaching and example’ that stayed with me and seemed to reinforce the sense that the “I Am” does communicate love and wisdom through all of us, even me, and even when I am not aware of it.
I do have a limited awareness of this love at the same time as I have almost no awareness of the Shepherd’s work throughout the time and space of the universe. I read that the first stars were formed possibly when Creation was about thirty million years old – and I imagine the forces of attraction (love) at work as clouds of atoms and other materials are ‘shepherded’ together until the pressure ignites nuclear fusion, and transformation leads to a new and previously unknown entity – another dimension of oneness. The ‘Parent’ and Cosmic Christ are one and it occurred to me that this seems to mean one in purpose and activity as well as in mind and heart – and now we humans participate in that life, knowingly and unknowingly.
May we grow in the faith which says that Jesus knows each of us by name and leads all creation into resurrection.
Reflection, 10 April 2016. (Jn 21:1-19)
To each of us, the grace to know and follow the presence of the Cosmic Christ. All my afternoon was taken up with three films looking at inter-faith issues – two stories and a documentary. The small audience included Jews, Muslims and Christians and there was little time for discussion so I did not meet many people. The stories and images spoke for themselves and portrayed what can happen in any religion when the ‘group’ sets out to follow its laws and customs rather than any spirit of openness or unity. I was moved by moments of blessing and grace as well as by the tragic consequences of being closed, controlling and fearful. I came away challenged to follow Jesus with a ‘living faith’ which I can put into words as well as actions so that I can participate in meaningful conversations in similar situations when the time comes.
On Thursday, a group of us from Glenburn attended the launch of a Wilderness Society program (in Melbourne) which aims to train leaders for campaigns to save the environment. Their target is one hundred thousand people who will be able to change hearts and minds ‘one conversation at a time’ and I could only marvel at the parallels with the work of Jesus, the Apostles and all his followers where passion, values, facts and ‘personal narrative’ come together in a people’s movement. Of course, there was no mention of religion or Spirit by these environmentalists yet it was obvious to me that they are ‘in tune’ with the Source of Creation – and I felt a touch of shame that I have not been active in a similar way. Then came the Whisper suggesting that I have my path to follow and that I might be prepared to join in their conversations as a Christian in this arena which is common ground for all faiths. We shall see how the Spirit moves.
I sense, too, that Jesus asks me many times each day, “Do you love me?” and I feel the distress felt by Peter with its mixture of shame, hope, doubt and expectation – especially as he repeats, “Follow me!” There seems to be always something different in the way he appears so that I, too, want to ask, “Is it really you? – in the midst of Jews, Muslims, Baptists and environmentalists? – calling me to join in conversations?” Perhaps the most important one is with him and his Spirit.
This engaging with others in the shared process of changing hearts and minds invites me to reflect on the power of attraction inherent in our expanding universe. In the beginning stages, different particles like protons and neutrons came together to form nuclei and then electrons joined the dance and the growing complexity produced atoms of hydrogen followed by helium. The notion of two or three gathering for the sake of relationships of empowerment continues to operate in many situations and I sense the deep attraction in me to be ‘in Christ’ and to participate in his ongoing work of creation – all the way to resurrection.
May all of us continue to follow this ever-new Presence and Mystery with the conviction and joy of all disciples and apostles since Peter’s conversations on the beach and facing the Sanhedrin.
Reflection, 3 April 2016. (Jn 20:19-31)
To each of us, the new life which grows through believing in the presence and love of Jesus, the Cosmic Christ. I look back over the last week and beyond to the last twenty years and I give thanks for the moments of seeing and touching wounds – mine and others’. These have been times of being touched by Divine Mercy and experiencing the peace of acceptance and missioning which comes with the ‘one who lives’. They seem to be the stepping stones of my journey into wholeness and the building blocks of relationships and community.
I read in one description of the first few thousand years of the Universe that stable relationships became possible as the fire-ball plasma expanded and cooled and allowed the elementary particles to remain joined together in the forms of things like protons and neutrons, releasing light energy as they came together. These couples and triads remind me of the ‘two or three’ gathered in Jesus’ name and suggest a foundational pattern for unfolding consciousness. At one level, it has been the significant sharing with another person (or a few others) releasing peace and life and at another level, it has been the openness to the Sacred Other, Jesus and his Spirit. There is, too, the inner level where I relate in a more healthy way with my ‘inner child’ who may be hurting, afraid or even playful. Each moment is different and reflects the diversity which is also at the heart of creation.
Some differences can be seen in the readings from Acts and Revelations. In one case, the Spirit is working through Peter’s shadow as well as his words and other ‘signs and wonders’. In the other, ‘John’ is involved in something like a dream or vision and seems to be commissioned into a new task, the writing of what he sees and hears. The Apostles became willing participants in the relationships of empowerment, passing on their own experiences to bring many others into this new ‘way’ of faith. I can imagine all of them being delighted and surprised at each ‘experiment’ of the Spirit which resulted in the peace and aliveness of their own groupings of two, three or more gathered together in the name of Jesus.
I sense that the challenge for me and my communities is about being open to touching wounds ‘in Christ’ – our own, those of others and of Earth, our common home – and being alert to the new experimenting by the Spirit who continues to reveal paths that are life-enhancing as well as those that are life-denying. When we dare to join the Apostles in joyfully proclaiming Resurrection in the porticos of today’s temples, then those searching for hope and truth will be drawn to share in the flow of power and grace.
May all of us continue to seek and to be surprised when the Breath of the Universe Being touches our hearts and our world.
Reflection, 27 March 2016. (Easter)
To each of us, the surprise and excitement of the empty tomb. One notion which has stayed with me at this beginning of our Easter celebration is the focus on the empty tomb and its impact on those who went there. It seems to be important for me to do the same thing, with my expectations of loss and grief, and to honour the relationships coming to an end – and changing wonder-fully. At one level, it is like the scientists visiting the Great Barrier Reef in recent weeks and finding a thousand kilometres of bleached corals – not yet dead but unlikely to find the years of good conditions necessary for revival. More significantly, it is about going to the ‘tomb’ in my heart and soul which I am tempted to see as containing little more than worms and the remains of faith as I consider issues like climate change and refugees crises.
The Genesis story of Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son stayed also with me as I reflected on the notion of my being created in the ‘image and likeness of God’ – a Divine Creator who ‘sacrificed his only son’ and set the pattern for us as individuals and as a species to follow. To me, the pattern is about Love and deepening relationships which allow Life to grow into fullness in evermore diverse and complex ways. Abraham was prepared to sacrifice his hope in Isaac’s future for the sake of a bigger picture of hope in Ultimate Goodness. I sense that my journey of recent years has been one of ‘sacrificing’ my largely unconscious focus on my wounded inner child, going to his ‘tomb’ and moving on to the surprise of a new and deeper relationship with the Resurrected One.
For most of my life, I have been focusing too much on doom and gloom – for me and for my world. I suspect that the Spirit has been carrying on the work of healing and enabling me to live beyond this ‘slavery’ to fear. At the Easter Vigil, I became more aware of this when I was chided on a couple of occasions by different people – once for being stubborn when I refused a helping hand and later for ringing the bell too loudly and too fast. All I could do on both occasions was to laugh and celebrate my growing sense of freedom – the inner child now much more playful.
I recall, too, the scientists’ description of the beginning of our Universe 13.8 billion years ago when the first particles were forming and colliding in the original cosmic soup – collisions in which small particles combine to make bigger and more complex particles with the release of some of their energy in the form of light. The pattern of sacrifice for the sake of new life is foundational to creation and continues today, in the Sun, provider of all our light and energy, in all the processes of our bodies and in the relationships which bring joy and laughter. The trip to the tomb becomes a journey to the relationships of Galilee, the beginning of the Jesus story, and to the beginning of the Christ Event, where we see everything with new eyes.
May all of us remain at empty tombs long enough to hear the messengers of the Holy One invite us into Mystery.
Reflection, 20 March 2016. (Passion Sunday)
To each of us, the grace of conscious participation in Love’s incarnating within our evolving creation. One thought which came to my mind was that the story of the Passion in today’s Gospel is like the story of the end of the pre-Christian era, an ending of great significance for our expanding and evolving Universe. The consciousness of us, the human species, has reached the stage of acknowledging Love as the ultimate power of creation and making the choice to serve as its instrument in all circumstances. New dimensions of faith, peace, forgiveness and companionship emerge in the violence and ‘darkness’ of creation which retain their essential place in the processes of creativity.
It seems as though ‘dark matter’ allows our universe to take the form and shape it has where ‘light matter’ comes together in ever more complex entities. Another dimension of the dark is the mystery of what happens in death and beyond. Jesus trusts that there is a ‘Universe Being’ and is able to keep his faith while acknowledging his fear. He gives witness to what it means to be made in the Divine image and likeness while those around him play at being gods. He demonstrates that the glory of Sacred Unity is about the evolution of creation into a multiplicity of forms including the human species which has the choice whether to participate consciously or to hold back and be involved unwittingly.
During the week, I watched a TV programme which highlighted one way in which I am an unaware participant in the extinction event of these times. Every time I wash the fleecy jacket which helps keep me warm – especially now as we move into autumn – some of the microfibers go down the drain and into the food chain where they pose a threat to the health of the creatures that eat them, all the way to the fish which we put on our own plates. This is the kind of awareness that brings people together in climate action groups and onto the streets. I watched thousands marching today, Palm Sunday, in the face of another perceived injustice as they declared, “Let them stay!” to the ‘gods’ who want to send refugees to anywhere but here. The Spirit of Jesus is at work as we come together in new partnerships in the face these crises so that all can choose to live life more fully even as we grow in awareness that the choice includes various forms of dying.
The human species, including me, is a global power at the social, biological and geological levels – we are changing our common home. Last month, February, was the warmest month on record with temperatures at least 1.2° above average around the planet. This is a different aspect of the treatment of the Cosmic Christ in the Holy Week gospel stories. I do not know how inevitable or even necessary it is for the evolving consciousness of the universe and for New Creation. I pray that I can participate in the processes with increased awareness and growing faith in the Mercy of the Creator who loves all that exists.
May all of us continue to listen and to wonder as we follow the way of Jesus in whom we live and move and have our being.
Reflection, 13 March 2016. (Jn 8:1-11)
To each of us, the supreme advantage of knowing Jesus, the Cosmic Christ. Any other ‘knowing’ could be described as ‘adultery’ in the same way as the Chosen People were described by prophets and as all of us could be described when our primary passion is for anything apart from Divine Love and Mercy. As I reflected on today’s gospel story, I wondered about the witness who saw the event and told the story – of a woman, a woman experiencing Great Mercy through Jesus. Who knew that Jesus had been to the Mount of Olives? I can imagine this witness coming to know him and his practice of prayer as well as his teaching and his confrontations with the Judean elites – a witness close to the inner circle and growing in awareness of him being Messiah.
In reading N.T. Wright’s commentary, I met the idea that the test was set up by the scribes and Pharisees to see if they could discredit him and show the crowds that Jesus did not have the ‘qualifications’ to be the Anointed One, the One who had all authority in the Temple and beyond. They wanted to show that he was just another pretender from Galilee and they would have been dismayed when he demonstrated something greater than the Wisdom of Solomon in dealing with them and the woman. If he was the Messiah then they would lose their power and positions and their ‘adultery’ was being exposed more and more each time he demonstrated that he did have the necessary credentials.
These scribes and Pharisees at least were able to address Jesus as “Teacher” so they did know him in some way. They and especially the ‘witness’ may have sensed a moment of humility as Jesus bent down and I can imagine him gathering his thoughts from an inner awareness as he wrote in the dust from which Adam was formed. I wonder if this stirred in all those present a memory of the goodness YWHW sees in all creation, especially in us humans, and awoke their inner knowing of the loving way to act. His teaching continued from symbolic action to words as he spoke of who could throw the first stone and I try to imagine how he would do that lovingly. His way includes Law, judgement and mercy as well as a call to all those present then and now to grow in Love.
I can imagine Jesus bending down to put himself below that woman’s status as sinner and not looking at her until the immediate issue of the men’s hypocrisy was faced. His moment of breath and prayerful listening allowed him to see the bigger picture and to invite the movements of Ruah for the empowerment of everyone. He is here as servant and even slave, doing the will of Sacred Unity and teaching me and my communities to do the same in him. I fail regularly to see and to speak with love and I am learning that I am not condemned as I keep hearing, “Go, and don’t sin anymore.” I do well when I breathe Ruah and live in each present moment.
May we know more and more about how Jesus prays, teaches, acts and moves in and around each one of us witnesses in intimate relationship.
Reflection, 6 March 2016. (Lk 15:1-3, 11-32)
To each of us, the grace of having the shame of our ‘Egypts’ rolled away. One notion which stayed with me from the homily today was that of the younger son being separated from the source of all the goodness in his life. Earlier in the week, I read that ‘sin’ can be considered as living in ‘the illusion of separateness’ and I began reflecting how easily I live with very infrequent awareness of the abiding Presence and Oneness who is the Source of All Being. It is as though I have to return from my ‘Egypt’ on a daily basis as I experience the stubborn elements of my shame as they are revealed there. I read also a short article (the Spirit at work again) on the blessings which can emerge from appropriate shame which may be a socialising factor inherent in our human species. Both sons would know intuitively what to do to be ‘at one’ with family and village just as the father knows how to bring all together with celebrating and produce of the land.
Over the years, I have felt a sense of shame telling me that I have not done enough ‘for the Kingdom’ and now I am learning that the real work is to believe that I am one with the Source and to become more like the father in Jesus’ parable. New shame tells me that I am not doing enough, not being open enough to let it happen and now I am learning anew that the ‘work’ is happening according to the way of Mystery and all I need do is enjoy the moment and celebrate the new creation happening in and around me. This is the story of us as a people – like Israel returning to YHWH no matter what the collective ‘sin’ – and as the consciousness of our evolving and expanding universe. If I listen attentively, I will know intuitively what to do to make Love manifest through a ‘companionship of empowerment’ (a description of Jesus’ kingdom which I came across recently) if and when we make the choice.
With so much about the issue of child abuse in the media recently, the thought came to me (the Spirit at work?) that a deeper issue may be that of the separation of Church and State, or rather of sacred and profane. I wonder if this ‘church’ of ours has somehow gone into its own ‘Egypt’ and is being called to repentance, humility and reconciliation in ways appropriate for the ongoing new creation. It seems that our society has banished the sacred when no one speaks of Love or Mercy or forgiveness in forums like Royal Commissions and that this centuries-old trend has infected many in our Church. It may be that we are seeing a significant consequence of this separation unfolding in front of us and it is adding to my sense of shame as I wonder what to do.
Another source of a sense of shame for me is when I see so many people working to put an end to the use of fossil fuels and my contribution seems so small. I see the stories of black lung disease effecting miners and think of the hidden costs that go beyond the effects of global warming. One news report says: Right now, we are on the verge of a potentially severe coral bleaching event as an underwater heatwave washes over our planet’s coral reefs. We’ve seen the first devastating signs of it reaching the Great Barrier Reef at Lizard Island, 220kms north of Cairns. I am tempted to believe that we are powerless to make a significant difference to this planet-sized ‘Egypt’ and then I sense a companionship built on the Spirit which is about participating in the task of reconciliation. Our real power comes from within and not from whatever we use to generate electricity or find pleasure. Like the younger son, we know intuitively what choice to make even as we chase the magic of ‘progress’ and individualism.
May all of us grow more into the image and likeness of the joyful father who celebrates all our resurrections with great abundance.
Reflection, 28 February 2016. (Lk 13:1-9)
To each of us, Love’s call to repentance. I imagine Jesus being moved with compassion by the deaths of the Galileans, of the eighteen and of all those who die without experiencing Mercy. He does not want anyone to perish before they have placed Sacred Unity at the centre of their lives. Today he seems to be saying to me and all of us that we might die because of illness, accident, war, terrorism or climate change ‘as they did’ – and as he did – and we, too, have the choice about where we are looking and the kind of eyes with which we look. He wants me to see as the gardener sees – and to do the work of digging around and manuring so that the fruit hidden inside will be revealed.
The cloud of ‘I Am’ has guided me into a variety of situations in the last week where a variety of fruits have shown themselves. Many people have contributed to today’s St Pat’s Race Day in Yea and I have helped with moving tables and chairs and then been the driver of the courtesy bus between town and race track. It is the yearly fundraiser for our parish and school so I have been enjoying the warm and friendly atmosphere (and the weather has been warm, not too hot for the horses) which has been created through green grass, shade, various foods at reasonable prices, fashions, activities for children, music from local bands and a well organised occasion – along with some dust and few winning bets (I did not get the chance to see a bookie). I was glad to be part of it and provide a friendly transport service for about twenty people as well as help in the clean-up. The focus for many has been on the ‘other’ and the rewards will go beyond the cash income into building the kind of community that happens ‘in Christ’ and in following his Mystery cloud in all situations.
The effects of the warmer, drier weather were noticeable in the forest when I accompanied our course participants on an hour’s walk earlier in the week. The trees are still green and the birds and wildlife are still evident but it seemed to be less healthy than it was last time I was on that track. I wonder if Mystery is calling our attention to the state of our planet and the extinctions happening all over it. The call is also to the faith of the gardener who believes that good fruit and new life will come when the appropriate actions are being done and that the cloud’s guidance will be there for those who seek and remain watchful.
Mystery has also been at work in the visa processes which will see our missing course participants arrive from overseas four weeks late. We can only trust that all will be well after original refusals and later positive results and that the time remaining will be fruitful for all concerned. Part of the gardener’s work has been to see us move beyond frustrations and resentments of all sorts as we move ahead in ways we have not foreseen – and that is still a significant lesson for me as the gardener works around my root system.
May all of us rejoice in the Love of the Gardener as the digging, manuring and fruiting continue to bring surprises and delights.
Reflection, 21 February 2016. (Transfiguration)
To each of us, the unveiling of our destiny ‘in Christ’ – in clouds on mountain tops and in valleys of tears and fears. I wonder how much this story is about the Spirit revealing to Jesus the foundations and the direction of his life – and it happens when he is praying, listening. Moses represents the way of faithful living described in the Law and Elijah demonstrates the consequences of answering the call to be the Holy One’s prophet. Jesus is given a glimpse of what lies ahead with its suffering as well as its glory which is inherent in his humanity. Past and future come together in present moment of awareness and attention and I sense that this is a pattern for all of us.
One taste of this for me was at Mass today when all present were uplifted by the presence of the Harmonico Choir visiting us for the first time because of their connection with our Parish Priest who used to sing with them in Melbourne when he arrived from Nigeria. The choir members are Filipino and sang joyfully and prayerfully. I partly remembered some of the songs from my Charismatic Renewal days and delighted in the glimpse and touch of grace which comes with Spirit-led community. I see it as a ‘promise’ now and into the future to me and all of us as we go on our way together ‘in Christ’.
After reflecting on this happening with its shared morning tea afterwards, I looked back to Wednesday when I went along to a meeting of fellow Mt Atkinson Dreamers (MAD) where we heard the latest news and talked more of what may lie ahead if a community of brothers and others is established in the housing development. What stays with me is the excitement we shared as we discussed gardens, developing a sense of belonging as people move into new houses with new neighbours, various activities to bring people together and the role some of us might play in all of that and more. It was a glimpse in the present of what can happen when we listen in prayer, build on the past and have faith that, in the future, there will be more than we can ask or imagine.
An issue of growing significance for our planet is the water crisis. Here are some lines I read in the last few days (on-line news):
"For some time now, the World Economic Forum has placed the world water crisis in the top three of global problems, alongside climate change and terrorism.”
About 66 percent, which is 4 billion people, of the world's population lives without sufficient access to fresh water for at least one month of the year, according to a new paper published Friday in the journal Science Advances. Despite the grim findings, the study recommends ways to reduce scarcity, such as increasing reliance on rain-fed rather than irrigated agriculture, improving the efficiency of water usage and -- perhaps the most challenging for humans -- sharing what's available.
I think of droughts (in this part of Australia and elsewhere) as well as cyclones (like the recent one in Fiji) and those who erect walls (Israel) instead of bridges to keep water resources for themselves. Perhaps some are already listening to the Creator Spirit and seeing ways to do things differently. They see also the challenge of sharing and I sense the call to move beyond my silence – to listen to the Chosen One and to participate in his mission of growing the Reign of Empowerment.
May all of us grow in the faith which sees the abundance and glory shining in and through each of us for the sake of our common home and destiny.
Reflection, 14 February 2016. (Lk 4:1-13)
To each of us, the grace to hold fast to our reality as dependants of Divine Mercy / Loving Kindness. Today’s Gospel uses the word ‘wilderness’ and I am not sure if that has to be desert as there may have been other ‘places of the wild’ in the region around Galilee and Judea where wild beasts lived and the forces of nature could be wild in different ways. I think of the ‘wild-ness’ which is growing and bringing us global warming and changing weather patterns and into which the Spirit can lead us with awareness if we can ‘fast’ and be attentive to the same power demonstrated by Jesus. Our deeper fasting needs to include our desires for anything apart from Love and that is where my struggle continues as I hold on to my own plans, ideas, comforts, hurts and fears. I have much to learn about how to be a child of the Universe Being.
In between visits to the dentist and the dermatologist, I went along for Mass at the cathedral on Tuesday and found myself at a Eucharist to launch Project Compassion with the Archbishop presiding and groups of students from many schools and colleges attending. I was thanking the Spirit for ‘leading’ me to this occasion with its youthful energy and singing as a blessing beyond my own plan of the ordinary. With the theme of ‘Learning More, Creating Change’ and the call to act, I was encouraged to widen my efforts to learn more about Pope Francis’ call in Laudato Si’ as well as stories of the effects of climate change, ‘ecological education and spirituality’ and the plans of the Creator for me and my communities.
The ‘satan’ – the accuser – seems to me to be the voice saying that even Jesus is not good enough as he is and then suggesting ways to make himself better and more influential. I see that temptation in myself as I wonder how I might make a difference in this world when my focus ought to be on Sacred Unity and how to be in tune with the One whose realm is here already. I want to look ahead to better times while dwelling on my limitations instead of having faith in the presence of Loving Kindness who does give me ‘bread’ and who forms me to serve in humility. I hear a different whisper telling me to be generous and sense my resistance growing and my desires for comforts like chocolate increasing as though my deepening trust is being tested to weed out even more obstacles.
The ongoing test is mentioned in the other reading where the call is to ‘confess with my lips’ and to tell my story of the Trinity bringing me and all of us out into freedom, as individuals and as one creation. In the last week, I have glimpsed anger in myself and others I have met and wondered how to respond beyond my usual keeping quiet and making new efforts to breathe peace. Jesus is the one who lives the answer in the midst of the consequences of speaking and acting in Love – and I sense my fear of those same consequences of rejection and crucifixion even as I grow in the faith that all shall be well. An enduring element of the task seems to be finding Truth beyond the inner, accusing voice.
May all of us grow in our awareness that our Creator is conveying us through all wild places both inner and outer and revealing Great Love.
Reflection, 7 February 2016. (Lk 5:1-11)
To each of us, the grace of following our ‘patron’ Jesus, the Christ. When I read about Jesus acting as a ‘patron’ in rewarding those who helped him with the use of their boat and then offering them a different vocation, I was happily surprised at the description and how well it can describe what sometimes happens to me. Blessings seem to come regularly as do the lessons I have to learn in my struggles to grow as a servant and fully-alive human being. There is something happening which invites me to say, “Send me!” even as I say that I have ‘unclean lips’ (from doubts, negativities, criticisms and more) and am not up to the mark. I am comforted to have a ‘patron’ in whom are concentrated the powers of creation.
Our universe is expanding and our consciousness of it continues to evolve. As a species, we began to be aware of the expansion through the work of Edwin Hubble about 90 years ago when he was able to use the best telescope of the time to see that galaxies seem to be moving away from each other. His work has opened our eyes to the depths of the sky and the vastness of the ‘heavens’ – the physical dimension of Sacred Presence where creativity does not cease and complexity continues to produce diversity on scales large and small. All of us can choose how much we will participate in these processes as evolving individuals and as agents – and the Living Word shows us how.
Jesus calls Peter and the other fishermen into an evolution which ‘grow’ them into men who will ‘catch’ others into this process of faith and love. Like them, I am learning to follow the ‘patron’ willingly and in wonder about where it will lead. I had a sense of doing this on Thursday evening when I accepted an invitation to dinner at Nudgee College with other brothers, the Principal and student leaders. I wondered what the new college captain had in mind as he spoke of wanting to leave behind a ‘legacy’ when the year ends. What came to my mind was Pope Francis, Laudato Sí, the universe story and relationship with Jesus. I wondered about mentioning this and decided it was time to follow the patron and trust my inner peace. At the end of the meal, I did speak very briefly to the boys and offered this as something to consider – and left it up to them and the Spirit. I came away feeling enlivened and encouraged by their openness and confidence that they can do something, whatever it is, to make a difference.
I can call these students ‘agents of grace’ and wonder how they might describe ‘grace’. I saw the movie ‘Looking for Grace’ which is the story of parents looking for their daughter and I reflected that all the main characters were looking for their own versions of ‘grace’ which were shallow and self-centred. The command is to go ‘into the deep’ and remember that ‘the whole earth is full of glory’ – the power manifesting in Jesus and his Body today. I wonder about me and my communities saying ‘send me’ and ‘send us’ to those like the movie characters, the school students and the suffering Earth as instruments of the healing and self-sacrificing love at the heart of the Universe Being.
May all of us evolve as participants in the life of our ‘patron’ the Cosmic Christ.
Reflection, 31 January 2016. (Lk 4:21-30)
To each of us, the grace to proclaim Sacred Unity’s love for all creation. I like N.T. Wright’s idea about this gospel which lets me imagine Jesus coming to Nazareth with a reputation for prophetic words and deeds and the local people looking to share in his ‘glory’ because he is one of their own. They reject him when he speaks not just ‘gracious words’ but words about Divine Grace for all the nations, including ‘sinners’ and the hated Romans as well as a widow in Sidon and a leper in Syria – which is not what they want to hear. Prophets like Jeremiah, Elijah and Elisha carried on the work of calling for faithfulness to YHWH and the task of being ‘prophet to the nations’ and now, ‘today’, we are fulfilling their words when we participate ‘in Christ.’
When I choose to follow Jesus in this way, I feel uplifted and energised. Too often, my choice is more like that of his home town people when I expect privilege and comfort and when I feel angry and resentful at the needs and demands of others. The second reading calls me to Love with its forbearance and endurance as well as its rejoicing, hope and faith. In the last week, we have had a couple of days of good rain and that reminds me not to give in when a task like dealing with changing weather patterns and drought seems too huge. There is a Power at work and I can be an instrument when I choose to do so and when I accept that rejection is part of the story as is the eternal presence of mercy.
Around three hundred years ago, Isaac Newton helped us become aware of gravity as an enduring feature of our universe – a mysterious force of attraction fundamental to our existence. It is like St Paul’s mirror where we get a glimpse of the more profound nature of the Creator’s attraction and desire for me – and for everyone and everything around me. The real privilege is to grow in awareness of this dynamic which is intimate and personal as well as all-pervasive and commanding a response: I am to grow in openness to the flow of Love in and through me.
I have just seen the movie ‘Spotlight’ and came away reflecting that, again, love and forgiveness were largely absent in the story as depicted. It tells of a team of reporters working to discover the truth about child-abuse by clergy and its cover-up by people at various levels of ‘church’. The Spirit was at work especially as victims began to tell their stories and even as one of the reporters came to admit his own failure several years before. I see echoes here of the words to Jeremiah about ‘not breaking down’ so as not to be ‘broken’ by the consequences of weakness. I give thanks for One who is ready to forgive me in my failures and desires me to proclaim Love’s story.
May all of us grow in our celebrations of Mercy loving us to wholeness.
Reflection, 24 January 2016. (Lk 1:1-4; 4:14-21)
To each of us, the blessings of our universe unfolding according to the law of Love. Today, my sister has been encouraging me to write down something of my own story of evolving and I can imagine many people wanting to have a worthwhile account of the Jesus story and seeing ‘Luke’ as someone who could do it well. This weekend, I have enjoyed the company of some cousins visiting from Adelaide (for the tennis) and another gathering of relatives moving into new jobs. There have been many stories to share and celebrate and it has been even more enlivening to bring the Spirit into parts of the conversations – and I look back and sense a taste of ‘the Lord’s year of favour’ still carrying us along.
I tend to become uncomfortable when telling my story with its struggles and successes and then find that the Spirit has carried me through all episodes into greater peace and joy. These are among the rewards and consequences mentioned by Nehemiah as well as Jesus and seem to be of the essence of Creation. Luke tells ‘Theophilus’ – all of us lovers of God – that the story is about knowing the truth and I sense from my own experiences that it is these deeper dimensions of living in the Body of Christ which we need to celebrate and to bring to the conversations. The stories include the discomforts of bowing down to Mystery and Spirit for we are parts of something far greater than we can imagine and each of us is needed in our common suffering, healing and rejoicing today.
Jesus tells us that the truth of the Law and God’s favour is happening now, today, and not to wait any longer (which I do too often). He confronts limited, familiar and comfortable ways of thinking and replaces them with truths even more profound than those which scientists like Copernicus and Galileo were offering four hundred years ago when they pointed to the Sun being the centre of our solar system and not Earth (including us). We belong in a vibrant and evolving universe and a central feature is love for those who are poor, captive, blind and downtrodden – and I am one of them and give thanks for all I have received.
I can look back through my own story and see where ‘Favour’ has been working in the evolution of me and my communities and I wonder what comes next. Then I look outside and see many branches fallen from stressed trees and sense that the Body of Christ is still working in and through me in the transformations of these days with their symptoms of climate change, violence, terrorism and innumerable acts of compassion. I can only bow before the Truth who is a Divine Persona in whom I exist and participate here and now.
May all of us grow as people of the good news, living and proclaiming its challenge, wisdom, peace and joy today.
Reflection, 17 January 2016. (Jn 2:1-11)
To each of us, transformation into the glorious abundance of the Cosmic Christ. I give thanks for a sense of deeper peace and aliveness which has stayed with me since Christmas time when I was in the midst of celebrations, anniversaries, birthdays, a family baptism and reflecting on the direction of my own life and purpose. Now it is as though the abundance of ‘good wine’ in the past is being overtaken by even better wine in preparation for the surprises of participation in the ‘New Jerusalem’ which is also called ‘My Delight’ and ‘The Wedded’ – and which is about doing ‘whatever he tells you!’
I can imagine Jesus having his own ideas about his ‘hour’ and what it might look like and having to be reminded that Sacred Unity has its way of compassionate living that involves surprise, mystery and abundance. In a moment of connection and deep listening, a potential disaster becomes an event of glory and belief. I suspect that I am really reflecting on my efforts to let go of my ideas about the year ahead and on my growing faith in the Spirit with an improving ability to connect to Heart.
I had a few little tests of this growth, including a dead rat in our storeroom on Christmas day, two teeth with increasing aches in the new year, a root canal treatment and several ant bites. These hints of fragility reminded me of the struggles which may be ahead in these troubled times, even as this part of the continent experienced one of its hottest January days followed by one of its coolest in a period when we have had little more than 1mm of rain. The threats of bushfires and terrorism seem to be increasing and becoming regular items in the news. I wonder, in this Ordinary Time of the Church’s year, about making it ‘ordinary’ to talk about Love and the fire of the Spirit – those hidden and needed realities who seem to be banished from social discourse.
After Mass, significant numbers of parishioners gather at a local café for refreshments and a chat. This time, I was sitting next to a man who is not a regular member of this parish and we found ourselves engaging in a conversation touching on these topics. He spoke of his inner peace developing as he engaged as a companion with inmates attending Mass in prison and finding their own peace and acceptance in the experience of sharing and Spirit. To me, it was an affirmation of my questions and my faith in Oneness and Surprise and I came away delighted and longing for more.
Longing is a significant aspect of marriage and of all relationships in and beyond our physical reality. I am beginning to believe in Jesus’ longing for me and for all forms of creation and how I am called to participate in that. I read about the plague, the Black Death, which caused the deaths of at least half of the population of Asia and Europe over six hundred years ago and was a stimulus in thinking that nature was not on our side but something from which to escape. While part of me does want to run away from today’s challenges, I find myself drawn to face them ‘in Christ’ and participate in the ongoing transformation of ‘our common home’ and the evolving web of Life.
May all of us rejoice in the abundance of grace and wine touching every ‘ordinary’ moment of our lives.
Reflection, 20 December 2015. (Fourth Sunday of Advent)
To each of us, the blessings of believing the promises of Merciful Love in the messages of angels and prophets, past and present. The Jubilee Year of Mercy, beginning this Advent season, is in the tradition of these reminders of our true nature as incarnated, sacred beings. A reading from Ron Rolheiser that I read recently describes a prophet as one who speaks for God and usually it involves a combination of divine challenge and divine consolation touching our deepest self. Today’s readings include being in labour, exile, suffering, strength and an unborn child leaping for joy. The final challenge is to believe as both Mary and Jesus believe – that our way of wholeness includes all of these also, in every dimension of our lives, especially our physical realities. Part of my challenge is to believe the message of ‘consolation’ that I am already holy and whole as Hebrews says happened in the loving sacrifice of Jesus who made Mercy the cornerstone of his life, death and resurrection.
I was looking for a touch of consolation at Mass when we were invited to sing Christmas carols about a new-born child and it is still the season of Advent. I was annoyed that the waiting of these weeks had been usurped – that the promises of the coming of the Messiah were being ignored in favour of telling and celebrating the story before I was ready. I now sense that this Advent is significant for me in Mystery’s ways which will be revealed when the time is right. I wonder about the significance of a small village of Judah and of the seemingly insignificant mothers-to-be who live and proclaim their faith in song. I am learning to celebrate my ‘waiting’ in the ongoing fulfilment of the promise made to me and my communities of living life fully in all great and small forms of physical reality.
As I walked down the road during the week, it was the form of a goat bleating at me which made me realise that, as a Capricorn with a birthday coming up, even this animal has a contribution to make. I reflected that I am sometimes like the goats referred to by Jesus and then that the creature of mythology is about a power which buts in to help others in time of need. I am called to repent – too much of the first and not enough of the second, especially in the ordinary activities of community living – and the immediacy of Mercy makes me laugh as I learn to see Jesus being born again in and around me.
I wonder, too, about sharing the sense of wonder experienced by Elizabeth and Mary at all the little births happening, like the small water-lily which appeared in our fishpond this weekend and the cactus flowers opening up on the hottest of days to be flattened by a passing shower of rain. There is much to wonder at around here as the countryside dries out in the developing drought and as we expect more heat and even bushfires in the coming months. We live in a region which has just had several days of severe fire danger in the not-so-gentle winds this Advent season. It is a challenge to see how the Spirit is guiding us in our own small ‘village’ in the face of the suffering of our common home and all its life.
May all of us remember and retell the promises peace and wholeness as we grow to be ‘angels’ and prophets for the sake of Sacred Unity.
Reflection, 13 December 2015. (Third Sunday of Advent)
Let each one of us rejoice in the purifying fire of the Son of King David. I did some quick research on the biblical David in order to compare his reign to that of the Messiah, Jesus. It seems to me that the former was focused on worldly power and wealth – the opposite of what his ‘son’ inaugurated. I see an evolution here of what the reasons why people would rejoice – from victories over enemies who are neighbours to the great victory over death. A significant theme of the David story is that of repentance and the Divine blessings which then flow. That message continues through to today with its own evolving understanding of the blessing of peace – from peace between neighbours to that of Sacred Unity in our hearts. I need to remind myself every day that I can live out of this deep peace when I remember that ‘Love’ rejoices over me (I sometimes wonder why) and will renew me if I allow the ‘Holy Spirit and fire’ to baptise me, even daily.
I sense that the kind of renewal needed for me and my communities concerns the kind of work which John was doing – proclaiming the presence of Jesus and the Reign of Empowerment. I can rejoice a little that the Paris climate talks have produced a consensus for all the nations to engage in slowing global warming (a frightening aspect of worldly fire) and to face the issues of sharing ‘coats’ and ‘food’ and of just ‘taxes’ and the role of armed forces as our common home on planet Earth continues to heat up for at least the next hundred years. I can rejoice as fully as I can that Jesus is always ‘coming’ in my unworthiness and that all of us are called to participate in and proclaim his victory. His is the only lasting peace (not like that of David or any other ruler) and will show us ‘what to do’ in each present moment.
I read in a commentary on these readings that joy comes to us only when we set out to create it for others. I suspect that the foundation of this task is affirming the goodness of those with whom we engage daily, just as John was doing when he gave his answers to individuals in the crowd. He could see what they needed to do and also that they had the capacity within themselves to do it. I am learning this for myself through those who affirm me and also in the joy which is shared when I do the same for others, especially in obedience to the Word. I suspect that it is the ongoing task for me and my communities to affirm the inherent goodness and capacities of all creation with praise and thanks to the Creator as we face the immense challenges of this century.
May all of us rejoice in the fire burning away the inner chaff which is a necessary step in our evolution as individuals and as a planetary species.
Reflection, 6 December 2015. (Second Sunday of Advent)
To each of us, the grace to live through integrity and devotedness. I like the God-given name prophesied in the reading from Baruch, ‘Peace through integrity and honour through devotedness.’ I am afraid of the challenge it holds at this time of global warming and corporate greed when so many ‘mountains’ have to be laid low and so many crooked ways made straight and when the human race and all of creation are looking for ‘salvation’ and healing. I am called to greater integrity and stronger devotion to the ‘New Jerusalem’ which is here already and it seems sometimes to be a matter of crying in a wilderness – tears of repentance and frustration, cries of hope and warning with the ‘world’ looking to itself for answers.
My own valleys, hills and crooked ways still exist and are being dealt with slowly and it seems as though integrity demands that the work be done and devotedness involves doing so in and with the Spirit of Jesus. I am learning that I do have an addiction to certain ways of thinking which are so deep and subtle that the healing needs to happen in a place of aloneness where not even I myself get in the way. A question I now have may be one shared by John the Baptist: Why go to a wilderness to proclaim repentance and forgiveness when most people will not be there to hear? In my thinking, I would like to belong to a community giving witness to mercy and love in the middle of ‘the action’ – and the Spirit seems to have different ideas. Perhaps I need to pray more like Paul in the second reading and to increase my love in the ordinary activities of daily life where I might improve my knowledge and recognition of what is best according to Sacred Unity. I see many hills and valleys waiting for attention.
I do take comfort from some patterns observed in human history such as the ‘Neolithic village’ which began to emerge about twelve thousand years ago on every continent on our planet as individuals and communities domesticated plants and animals to add extra dimensions to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. It could be described as the Spirit at work, a morphogenic field, word of mouth or an innate capability. Somehow it happened and was followed by the rise of classical civilizations with cities and temples in many places. If it has happened before then it may happen again and perhaps the best of these two patterns will be incorporated more into the solutions of today’s crises. I wonder how much this relies on enough people and communities living through integrity and devotedness within the Reign of Empowerment. I suspect that ‘repentance’ remains a fundamental aspect of our evolution as a species.
John and then Jesus show us what it is to live according to the name, ‘Peace through integrity and honour through devotedness.’ May each of us emerge from the wilderness and participate in their proclamation in villages and cities for the sake of all creation.
Reflection, 29 November 2015. (First Sunday of Advent)
To each of us, the grace of being alert to the fulfilling of Divine Promise. Three of us from Glenburn travelled to Melbourne (car and train) on Friday afternoon to join in the Climate Action March (Swanston and Bourke Streets). With perhaps fifty thousand or more people and about 350 organisations represented, it was a grand spectacle and a taste of all people ‘on the face of the Earth’ coming together for the sake of justice and honesty. I began by attending an inter-faith ‘Farewell to Coal’ ritual outside the Wesley Church before the group marched down to join the big assembly. I received and carried an A4 page proclaiming “I am Marching for God’s Creation” which I tried to display (with occasional feelings of discomfort) for the remainder of the evening.
An aspect of the ‘Promise’ is that Jesus is with us always and this lightened my heart even as I kept alert for further touches of the Spirit. I was able to help a woman who was looking for fellow Christians for the march and I then found the EarthSong banner and joined their group. I saw a few other Catholic groups (Caritas with Papal flags and schools) and sensed that the Spirit was indeed at work bringing so many people together. However, my general impression was that very few considered the agony and distress already happening to our planet and the change of hearts and minds required for facing up to the enormous challenge. I suspect that most still believe that it will have no great impact on their lives especially if other human beings make the appropriate decisions and act on their promises.
The Gospel story seems to say that, whether we succeed in turning around global warming or not, ‘the Son of Man’ has been victorious and that it is up to each of us to participate in that victory through our alertness and prayer of listening. In the homily, we were reminded that we are now this ‘Son of Man’ present with ‘power and glory’ and that we will be called upon to act in ways large and small. I suspect that a big way may be to continue Jesus’ call to repentance and forgiveness in the face of our unbelieving consumer society. I can only pray for the strength to do so if and when the call comes to me and my communities.
One sense of the dimensions of the struggle was that we saw no mention of Friday’s march in the TV news we watched over the next couple of days. It was as though it had never happened. There seem to be forces working to keep the status quo of profits and the global market – of maintaining the world of ‘debauchery and drunkenness and the cares of life.’ I have read the first few pages of the book “This Changes Everything” by Naomi Klein and am disturbed by the brief description of these ‘powers’ which give the impression of ‘devils in sheep’s clothing.’ I sense a great challenge to be a presence of prophetic love and so to be worthy of standing before the Son of Man. Perhaps the roaring of seas and waves growing louder and more violent will remind all of us about the Power of Resurrection.
May we become more and more awake to the Victory which is always within our grasp.
Reflection, 22 November 2015. (Christ the King)
To each of us, the blessings of following Jesus, the Cosmic Christ – the One who commands, “Love! Lay down your life! Love Sacred Unity. Love your neighbour including your enemy. Love yourself.” Today our new priest-parish-administrator, a Nigerian, was with us for the first time as presider at Eucharist and we enjoyed his wisdom, his humour and his humanity. In his homily, he described how one village could be at war with another village and the victorious leader could be acclaimed as a great ruler (what we might call ‘king’) – a guide, inspiration and protector of his people. He compared this to the Church acclaiming Jesus as ‘king’ and I was waiting for him to mention Jesus’ victory over ‘death’ and the fear of death and so was a little distracted as he continued on about our call to honour and celebrate Jesus as our ‘great ruler’ by listening and obeying, by living lives of truth and justice. It is a matter of choice and I pray that I can continue to grow in my daily choosing this way for the sake of those who make the same decision as well as for those who have not yet made it.
As I struggle daily to choose Truth and wonder what or who that is, one answer which I read and which stays with me says that it is ‘the reality of God’ – and I think of Divine Presence and of the ‘Universe Being.’ I wonder about creation unfolding as the Body of the Cosmic Christ according to its inbuilt Law and commands and about how we human beings now have the option to co-create. When I listen to Jesus’ voice, it is about listening to the Spirit and song within me, my communities, the whole web of life and all expanding matter and energies, light and dark. Jesus’ ‘reign’ comes ‘from’ the same Source of All and belongs in that realm of pure light as much as it does in the arena of the infinite variety of forms, holons and relationships. In truth, it is all One and will continue its evolving all the way to resurrection. Perhaps my choice is between participating in this Mystery and staying stuck (and safe) in the darkness of certainties, addictions, isolation and denial.
One little taste for me of this participation has been ongoing for the past few weeks when I have been helping in the construction of a frame to hold netting over a small orchard here – about 3 metres high and 18 by 11 metres on the ground. It has involved removing old posts, digging holes, putting in new uprights, fastening boards, beams and pipes with much venturing up and down ladders. I have enjoyed the sense of community with up to six people working (Saturday) and the sense of accomplishment (even though the project is not yet completed). It has been microcosm of creation involving intent, experiment, accepting imperfection, as well as sharing joy and gratitude. It is a glimpse of what is possible when the focus is on Other and our common home.
Jesus’ focus was Sacred Unity when he answered Pilate’s query with a question of his own. He seems to have a great desire that each of us, including the Pilates of this world, will come to see for ourselves the truth of our existence.
May all of us grow in our participation of the all-embracing Love at the heart of every aspect of our universe.
Reflection, 15 November 2015. (Mk 13:24-32)
To each of us, the wisdom of knowing that the Son of Man is very near. The violence of the terrorists in Lebanon and then France on Friday night is a stark reminder of the reality named in today’s readings. The great conflict, extreme anguish and distress have been always part of the universe and belong to the stories of the human race and of the life of Jesus and his followers and now rise in different forms for our generation to face. The violence will continue as retaliation follows retaliation – eyes for eyes, teeth for teeth and blood for blood. The ‘end times’ have been here since Jesus was crucified and are likely to last a very long time. The learned and wise ones will continue to ‘see’ the Cosmic Christ and to participate in his power and glory by bringing the peace, love and forgiveness in their own hearts to places of great pain and suffering.
My own little trials have included a trip to the airport (takes close to ninety minutes) for a 9.30am pickup which did not happen till 12.30. I was anxious about missing the traveller as I waited over half an hour in the 1-minute pickup lane, not knowing that I was looking at details for the wrong flight, thanks to a cancelled plane, missed communications and further delays. It did provide an opportunity to ‘breathe peace’ and grow in trust that ‘all will be well’ as I parked and sought information in the terminal and waited at other locations. I listened to reports about the terrorist attacks on the radio and reflected that this was the best thing for me to do – breathe in the suffering and allow Mystery to transform it into love so that there would be less anger and frustration in the world. We arrived home late (and safe) after a detour to buy a pie for some lunch.
Jesus talks of ‘heaven and earth passing away’ and I imagine that they are doing so as ‘separate’ entities while becoming one new creation, highlighted in his resurrection. The compassion and the violence of these times seem to me to be aspects of this apparent duality on a human scale as well as aspects of my life, and of all of us. The growing complexity of one dimension will be mirrored by advances in the other and call for deeper awareness and appreciation of each individual’s contribution to Life’s unfolding. The fully-alive human one will ‘see’ how they merge together at many different levels and participate in the Universe Being with faith, hope and love.
When homo sapiens first came to Australia perhaps sixty thousand years ago, they came at about the same time as many species of megafauna went into extinction and may have contributed to the process at a time of climate change in their search for survival. I imagine them, over generations, appreciating the human impact, negative and positive, on the ecosystems and learning how to let the whole web of life thrive through ‘dreaming sites’ (no-go zones), passing on myths and legends, seeing themselves interconnected with life forms through ‘totem’ animals, understanding their role as stewards rather than owners, and viewing all as sacred. Their descendants today still suffer their own ‘great conflict’ of the last two hundred years and have much to teach us about appropriate ways to engage with Spirit, each other and all life for the sake of our common home.
May all of us allow the Spirit to open our eyes to the embracing presence of the Cosmic Christ in whom we live, celebrate, suffer and find peace all the way to Resurrection.
Reflection, 8 November 2015. (Mk 12:38-44)
To each of us, the grace of giving our all for the sake of Life. I have just seen the movie ‘Simshar’ which is based on a true story of a Maltese fishing boat during the present crisis of asylum seekers crossing the sea from Africa to Malta and Italy. What stays with me is the sense that there are no winners anywhere – fishermen and their families, Africans, ships’ crews, medical personnel, military and police, local citizens. I think of them being in the same situation as the widow whom Jesus watches at the Temple treasury – caught up by forces they cannot influence or control and with feelings of powerlessness, frustration, resentment, grief and the remains of hope.
There is irony in the movie as the tragedy unfolds and the people in Valetta are celebrating with a statue of the Madonna and Child being carried through the streets accompanied by marching bands and fireworks. I see this pointing to the rare faith of the widows in the readings (1 Kings and Mark) who remain faithful to their true and deepest humanity even as they perceive no future for themselves. Some of the characters in the movie exhibit this trust in Sacred Presence while many remain like the scribes in their self-interest. I am one of those being challenged to give up ‘all I have to live on’ for the sake of the real Temple and treasure – the Reign of Empowerment and self-sacrificing Love – in each present moment. I pray that I continue to grow in the faith which finds peace and joy in choosing humble service.
This reminder of the most recent movement of humans out of Africa, of people leaving behind most, if not all, of their home life and resources, is inviting me to wonder about the first migration of homo sapiens into the Middle East and Europe which seems to have occurred about sixty thousand years ago. I wonder how much it was brought about by necessity or a sense of adventure or climate change – or by the desire for a better life away from conflicts. We may never know the circumstances of the (probably) small family groups who set out into the unknown even as we hear stories of today’s refugees and live into the story of our own journeys into the Realm of Sacred Earth. Jesus continues to demonstrate for us the consciousness required to see this reality beyond the observable actions of scribes and widows – and of ourselves.
The challenge to give ‘all’ was highlighted by Anthony Fisher OP in his homily for the memorial Mass for my brother-in-law who died twelve months ago (7 Nov) as he described how Nicholas loved with all his heart, soul, mind and strength – the words from Deuteronomy and the Gospels. I was one of many who enjoyed and were inspired by what the Archbishop said and I reflected later how this sense of ‘all’ is at the heart of the widow’s contribution and at the heart of the Treasury which is our living in and building of the Temple of Creation. In all the situations in which he worked, Nicholas was clear about his faith and this was especially so when it came to his family who proved to be a strong motivation and who provided great support as his health deteriorated. At this Eucharist, I was blessed to meet for the first time his first grandchild, born last month and bringing renewed joy, hope and sense of urgency to our shared mission of caring for our common home.
May all of us grow in the joyful faith which allows us to put all we have at the service of Sacred Unity here and now.
Reflection, 1 November 2015.
To each of us saints, the blessings of Sacred Unity in every present moment. I read that the Beatitudes describe the (partial) reality of the presence of the Divine Realm manifesting in the created world for those who focus on Love. I understand that this focus recognises my little self as being ‘poor in spirit’ because it really is small and depends on ‘Great Self’ for its existence, growth and evolution. There was one commentary which stays with me: it says that there is a development through Jesus’ list of blessings (paralleling the blessings of the Hebrews entering the Promised Land) in which YHWH chooses the poor – the ones mourning, the gentle and those hungering for justice – and then commands them to be merciful, pure in heart and makers of peace in response to the gifts of that choice and prepares them for the abuse and persecutions which will follow on that journey up the hill. For Jesus, this means ‘resurrection life’ here and now as well as ‘on the third day!’ (i.e. not fully real immediately).
The saints are those amongst us who say, “Yes!” to the choice and strive to be faithful to the whole journey as Jesus was. Sometimes I wonder if the lack of persecutions in my daily life is an indication that I am avoiding the narrow way and living too comfortably. Then I reflect that the ‘body’ to which I belong is suffering and that the best response will be communal – and that seems to be where the Spirit is leading me and my communities. As I learn to stop persecuting myself, I am finding the joy and peace which is the reward whenever I breathe with awareness and make my own little contributions to the Reign of Empowerment.
I am learning, too, to spread these blessings to those around me in the simple and ordinary tasks of daily living like cooking, washing up, sweeping, vacuuming and feeding the goldfish and parrots. I can use what capabilities are in my hands, the consequences of the evolution of homo sapiens. I imagine that the free use of hands played a significant role over millions of years as our species experimented and played, increasing brain capacity and sense of wonder and then developing the language to share ideas, emotions, stories and reflections. We seem to be the only species able to spread our learning in ways which go far beyond those of other life forms which are limited to sharing DNA. We have great responsibilities which culminate in spreading the blessings of the Cosmic Christ to our troubled world.
I was blessed to participate in a drumming workshop where the free and conscious use of hands was important in creating the rhythms which are themselves reflections of cosmic vibration, creativity and unity (beginning with eight of us novice drummers trying to keep up and keep together). The day included a ‘sound bath’ where two facilitators used their hands and various instruments, especially crystal bowls, to ‘wash’ us with resonances (supplemented by with the sounds of bird-calls coming in from outside). Blessings come in many forms and serve to deepen our connection to the Source of All Vibration.
May all of us walk the journey of the Realm of Oneness on all the hills of our earthly lives.
Mt 5: 3-12
The Beatitudes as inspired by the original Aramaic:
Tuned to the Source are those who live by breathing Unity;
their “I can!” is included in God’s.
Blessed are those in emotional turmoil;
they shall be united inside by love.
Healthy are they who have softened what is rigid within;
they shall be open to receive the splendour of earth’s fruits.
Happy are they who long deeply for a world of right relationships;
they shall be encircled by the birth of a new society.
Healthy are they who from the inner womb birth forth compassion;
they shall feel its warm arms embracing them.
Aligned with the One are those whose lives radiate from a core of love;
they shall see God everywhere.
Blessed are those who plant peace each season;
they shall be named the children of God.
Healing to those who have been shattered within – from seeking wholesome rest;
theirs is the ruling principle of the Cosmos.
Blessed are you when you are reproached and driven away by the clamour of evil on all sides, for my sake. Know deep joy even in your loss for this is the secret for claiming your expanded home in the universe; it is a sign of the prophets and prophetesses to feel the disunity around them intensely.
(Based on Neil Douglas-Klotz, Prayers of the Cosmos, Harper San Francisco, 1990, pp.44-76)
Reflection, 25 October 2015. (Mk 10:46-52)
To each of us, the grace of seeing how to follow the way of the Cosmic Christ. Bartimaeus would have seen his only hope for a renewed life coming through meeting Jesus and experiencing the power flowing through him. By calling out, “Son of David!” he might have expected a reward for giving Jesus this title or he might have expected a rebuke for causing trouble from authorities. He received an invitation and then a question giving him the opportunity to see deeply his greatest desire. He may have wanted his sight restored so that he could return to his previous life of work and family. He was given sight and also insight into the joy of knowing Jesus, Messiah, and the Reign of Empowerment. His gratitude, delight and hope could best be expressed by following and building his relationship with the one who brings deep healing.
I give thanks for the healing in my life even as I recognise that I am not as spontaneous as Bartimaeus in jumping up, leaving my ‘cloak’ behind and going to Jesus with my desire and in response to whatever the next step might be. I am reading some of what Tom Wright says about resurrection and its significance for following this ‘way’ and the great challenge of these times to reclaim the message of the ultimate new life for all of our groaning creation. I have some longing to be swept up in this task and some fear around what it means for me and anyone who follows this narrow road. Part of me wants to stay sitting on the sidelines and I pray for the insight to see the presence of Jesus in whatever form he takes when travelling nearby.
I imagine that Bartimaeus lived to experience the events of Jesus’ resurrection and may have seen his Risen Lord. His experiences and mine are woven into the matter and movements of life which build on nature and evolution with the firm promise of transformation. One of my tasks at the moment is to help in clearing the ti-trees from a gate-way which gives us a second exit if our road becomes blocked (by fallen trees or fire.) Earth’s evolutionary journey has brought us to this position of extreme temperatures and drought in our country and the challenges of global warming (and modern-day bushrangers) seem huge and even impossible. Bartimaeus may have thought “Impossible!” too and he came to see differently.
People were healed by Jesus instantaneously through the power which brought him to resurrection and which will take all creation along the same path. I find it interesting that about five million years ago, a possible human ancestor was beginning to evolve the ability to walk upright on two feet while continuing to move and feed in trees and that one significant contributing factor may be the benefits received by carrying food for other members of the clan – especially a ‘food for sex’ arrangement in which males won females by this cooperation rather than by fierce displays of canine teeth. Palaeontologists are surmising things like this from studying the 4.4million-year-old remains of a fellow hominin named ‘Ardi’ who lived in Ethiopia.
Now we have people like Bartimaeus and me carrying ‘cloaks’ until we meet Jesus and follow his way of carrying the suffering of all creation with compassion and the power of divine intimacy all the way to resurrection.
May all of us continue to call out to the Son of David for mercy and the eyes to see Love’s questions.
Reflection, 18 October 2015. (Mk 10:35-45)
To each of us, the freedom received from the service of Jesus. In the last week, I have watched three stories [The Three Musketeers, New Tricks, Macbeth] which have highlighted for me the line, “We are as sick as our secrets.” There are hidden agendas, lusting for power, past mistakes and evil deeds to cover up. James and John demonstrate how very human these things are and I know them in my own life. Jesus knows them too in being tempted as all of us are and he knows also how to be free and healthy. His way includes honesty, humility, forgiveness and being servant – being loving and life-giving in each present moment.
During the week, we here at Glenburn had a meeting where we talked around the future of this place and attempted to be honest about our feelings as we face necessary changes. One aspect is that of our dreams, some of which are fulfilled while others need to be reinterpreted as Jesus does with the apostles. I struggle with the call to serve through sharing honestly my feelings yet I can see the freedom which comes when I do so. In some ways, this is the life-long ‘cup’ for me to ‘drink’ and I am learning that the Spirit is working in my desires to grow into full life and intimacy. Jesus makes it possible and continues to serve me as I make efforts to follow.
This notion that Jesus is servant to me is one that I find exciting and humbling. I ask, “Am I good enough?” and sense the response, “Just do it!” – and be servant ‘in Christ’ to whoever comes, even to the goldfish who have just returned to our repaired fishpond. I wonder how much this ‘love’ is about self-sacrifice and how much is about the knowing and being known of intimacy – where secrets shared bring joy and peace. Perhaps I am called to pray more (i.e. listen more) for each next step into the Reign of Empowerment rather than focusing on the negativities which can fill my mind.
I see great hope when I read that 99.9% of all the species of life-forms that have ever existed on Earth are now extinct because this process has brought our common home to its present state. There have been at least five major extinction events and each has accelerated the evolution of life as established species disappear and opportunities arise for new ones to emerge and develop. I think of Jesus and his ‘extinction’ which announces ‘resurrection’ and ‘new creation’ for the entire universe. I wonder about those aspects of me – ways of thinking and acting – which I can allow to become extinct according to this universal pattern in human form. I pray that I and my communities continue to love and serve Life rather than to keep secrets which serve death.
May all of us grow in being served and serving within the intimate embrace of Great Love.
Reflection, 11 October 2015. (Mk 10:17-30)
To each of us, the possibilities of passing through the eye of the Creator’s great needle. I wonder about the instrument needed to ‘sew’ the universe with its immensity and diversity, all of which Sacred Unity ‘sees’ with love and joy. I had imagined that the tiny embryo of a camel could pass through the eye of even a modern needle and then reflected that everything is within the gaze of this ‘Eye’ in the eternal ‘now’ – including the unknowns of the future. I and my communities are called to welcome Jesus’ steady and loving gaze as we evolve together in his Reign of Empowerment.
There was a sense of being in this ‘gaze’ for a small group in interested people, including me, gathered at Mount Atkinson on Thursday. We shared ideas and reflections around our possible involvement in the planned development and the formation of a community living there in the future to be vibrant, spiritual presence marked by hospitality, simplicity and sustainable living. I am excited about the steps we can take now to connect with stories personal and cosmic and to the impossibilities of our mortality in preparation for being with the vulnerable people who might come from situations of war and environmental destruction and wish to make a new start in our locality. This is my sense of where Jesus is leading me and my communities.
I enjoyed another form of being led on Saturday when I participated in a ‘circle dance’ experience here at Glenburn. All the dances were new to me and I found that I could eventually get my feet following the steps for short periods before it was time to try another pattern. While this was a time of self-forgiveness, there were two ‘words’ from the Spirit: ‘Education’ and ‘Peace.’ My early reflection is that I am called to continue my learning around the stories and processes which might apply to a new community in a place like Mount Atkinson and to share in that with fellow travellers. I wonder if the real educating needs to be around living ‘peace’ in the way that Jesus lives, gives and teaches. I can only pray for the spirit of wisdom to do this in each present moment, especially in the face of persecutions and disasters.
At Mount Atkinson, we took note of a large bull and several cows in a paddock near the house and saw some kangaroos in the distance (and rabbits). Their little worlds will be turned upside-down in the next few years and they might survive if we of the human species manage the process. As I think of camels and mammals, I consider that significant characteristics have been passed down through at least two global extinction events since they began evolving in our mammal-like reptile ancestors. We ‘know’ deep in our DNA how to move on and survive, taking the new life of our young with us and encouraging evolution into new situations. I have just read a line from N.T. Wright where he uses the words ‘significant mutations in .. thinking’ (about resurrection) to describe what happened at the time of Jesus’ rising to new life. I, at least, have much to learn about how I can evolve in this situation which began two thousand years ago and is still very new.
May all of us pass through the eye of the Universe Being’s needle as the ‘new creation’ of Easter is woven into creation.
Reflection, 4 October 2015. (Mk 10:2-16)
To each of us, the grace of wholeness within the Reign of Empowerment. Recently I have enjoyed regular conversations with another brother and we find that the issues become concentrated around what is at the centre of our lives. In today’s Gospel, Jesus reminds the Pharisees that the Creator has laid down a pattern for one way of relating between a man and a woman in which each can come to wholeness through the complementarity of the other. There is a new ‘one flesh’ which is to be the focus of the couple. I see my experiences of community as arising out of the same inherent drive for wholeness yet following a different pattern of coming together for the sake of growth and our evolving world.
Both of us rejoice in our faithfulness and the tastes of forgiveness as we struggle towards wholeness both inner and outer. Perhaps this is essential in the pattern of ‘receiving the kingdom as a little child’ where we keep returning to the Great Parent in the expectation of affirmation and blessings which are always available, unlike situations of parental separation and domestic violence. We see a great need in our society and world for the blessings of Jesus to flow through us today to the ‘children’ of all ages who suffer from wars, depression, neglect and abuse. It can happen only when I can bless those same elements within me.
I am being challenged to include and bless some neglected parts of myself as I take up again the task of repairing our leaking fish pond. There is the accuser who tries to condemn me for mistakes and there is the ‘artisan’ who wants to be creative with no prior experience. There is also the one who reaches out to others for ideas and suggestions in efforts to do the job as well as it can be done and to build community. The greater challenge involves forming new communities with a focus on today’s children suffering from climate change with our current droughts and floods in various parts of our common home.
Flowers seem to be the most recent, significant evolutionary step demonstrating what can happen within creation when the right mutation or ‘accident’ becomes part of the great plan. Flowers are like marriage in that they are about sex and the passing on of genetic coding into a new and improved generation. They may have evolved from a mistake in the division of a cell and/or from modifications to leaves. It is their ability to protect and nourish seeds which seems to be the difference and their more recent abilities to attract pollinators with scents and colours which has enabled flowering plants to make up about 90% of all plant species. They are about diversity and adaptations which allow them to flourish in many parts of our environment. It is now the time for us humans to come together in many and diverse ways to continue the unfolding of the plan with consciousness and in partnership with the Spirit.
Flowers can teach us the benefits of co-evolving from their symbiotic relationships with insects. Here we are in a dry spring season and looking forward to a healthy yield of fruits and vegetables. This will involve efforts from insects, soil microbes, human watering systems and absence of bushfires. It requires many different life-forms cooperating so that all can survive.
May all of us rejoice in the roles we have within the flow of Sacred Unity.
27 September 2015. (Mk 9:38-48)
To each of us, the grace of seeing and working within the power of the Cosmic Christ. Eldad, Medad, Joshua and the apostles experienced the power of the Spirit enabling them to bear the burdens of guiding and healing amongst those to whom they were sent – and were jealous of that power. As I ask myself what it is to ‘stumble’ in these activities, I wonder about the obstacles on my path as well as those I put onto the paths of others. One aspect is that of John’s view where I see myself and my ideas as right and important rather than seeing the bigger picture which Jesus sees. I imagine that the healing and guidance is about wholeness and reconnecting at all levels from individual to cosmic – the journey of the Universe Being to new Oneness.
As I struggle to move from jealousy and pettiness to gratefulness and peace, I remind myself of the service called for by Jesus. I saw the movie “Mr Holmes” on Monday and came away with another reminder that relationships are at the heart of life. I can be too obsessed with details and logic so that I miss the joys of presence, forgiveness and growing together as individuals and communities. These become obstacles on many paths and can serve to call me back to the bigger picture when I catch myself stumbling. I am learning to enjoy the simple tasks of sweeping the floor and cleaning up when I do so with awareness of the present moment. One activity which always bring joy for me is feeding the two king parrots who sit on my hands while crunching into grains and seeds.
Today I read a comment that significant steps in following Jesus will come from a great desire for living more fully. For me, it happens slowly and almost imperceptibly as I come to see the next ‘hand or foot or eye’ which needs to be ‘cut off.’ I image that this, too, is inherent in creation when I wonder about the transition from dinosaur to bird over thousands of years as the tail was ‘cut’ to a size enabling the avian aerobatics we see today. The first creatures on this path seem to have been small, meat-eating dinosaurs who already had some feathers. It is possible that feathers provided colour and insulation for parents, eggs and young. I can imagine the protection offered by the beginnings of wings and then a hungry specimen running and chasing its prey with arms/wings flapping for increased speed and then finding itself ‘flying’: thousands of mutations working together according to an inherent plan which continues to unfold in nature and in aeronautics.
I suspect that much of the stumbling happening to me and my communities is because we do not take the time to see our place in this big picture of the power and plan of the Universe Being loving all of Life towards fullness. I can sense my desire to be swept up in this dance as well as my fears of the ‘cuttings’ needed every day for my flying and soaring within the Reign of Empowerment. The journey of these times of global warming and streams of asylum seekers will be marked by thousands of steps forward, many obstacles and much stumbling – and calls for great faith in the Big Plan. It is the Paschal Mystery for all of us.
May each of us grow our desire to fly free and our willingness to undergo the Spirit’s knife.
20 September 2015. (Mk 9:30-37)
To each of us, the blessings of loving care flowing through our lives. Jesus continues to teach all of us disciples about Love flowing through the universe. I understand this to be the kind of love where someone places another at the centre of their care and concern no matter what the cost, even to one’s identity and all the way to death and resurrection. I am beginning to see what this means for me and I experience swirls of fear, resentment, peace and joy as I learn to see myself as ‘servant’ rather than just ‘brother’ or ‘teacher’ or ‘religious.’ I am to welcome children into my arms, especially my own inner child with his sense of wonder, playfulness and openness to adventure. Then love and energy can flow through me in service to Life.
All of those emotions were flowing during the week as I attempted to do my ‘little bit’ with the Year 9 students in the forest. Four times a day for three days, I invited groups of ten to fifteen to walk by themselves for a few minutes along a track and to be open to the Spirit of the place. Some could do it well while most struggled to see beyond their friends. I am consoled that even Jesus struggled to teach his disciples about the essence of his journey – which is the way for me and my communities to follow. When I trusted that the Spirit could do a ‘big bit’ to enhance my small service, then I could feel the warm ‘welcome’ of the Universe Being.
I sense that the deeper service is to bring this awareness of Loving Presence into all my actions from washing up, sweeping and vacuuming to feeding the birds and to the work of relationships. The reading from James speaks of ‘the wisdom from above’ and I suspect that this way of serving comes from the Self which is within as much as above or below or anywhere else. I wonder how much it is inherent in creation, the significant characteristic of the Universe Being which is becoming manifest through evolution from at least the time of the dinosaurs until now when our species can choose how we act.
I cannot imagine how dinosaurs evolved and came to protect their eggs and their young and to keep together in groups for hunting and safety. They had a sense of parental care which emerged from deep instincts and I can believe that they were living in tune with the Great Parent. Now the family needing our protection includes all life and the systems of our living planet. Betrayal, crucifixion and resurrection are inevitable in the life of the Cosmic Christ and all of us who live his way. Dinosaurs became extinct and life moves on and becomes more complex, all within the ways of Sacred Unity.
May all of us grow in the peace and joy of serving as conduits of self-sacrificing Compassion and Mystery.
13 September 2015. (Mk 8:27-35)
To each of us, the grace of setting our minds and hearts on Divine things. I like the notions which I have picked up from others that being ‘on the way’ with Jesus includes being open to new teachings – and I imagine that learning how to live in tune with our expanding and evolving Universe is significant for these times. (Consider ‘Laudato si'.) The Cosmic Christ is still being rejected, still suffering, still being killed – and still rising to new life. We humans have the option to choose if we will follow his way while other species show us different aspects of Sacred Unity.
We have new, young hens on our chicken range and one has begun to lay eggs with the first appearing on Wednesday. I consider this little ‘Wow!’ moment as the Spirit’s invitation into the Mystery of Life because it has happened at the time when I was thinking of reptiles and their adaptation of land-based, hard-shelled eggs. Somewhere and somehow in the evolution of amphibians into reptiles, it is possible that a series of mutations in just one species produced this wonder of a container in which all the ‘ingredients’ for an offspring were assembled and protected. It seems as though this ability survived an extinction event in which 75-95% of all species suffered and died out. We could say that the Cosmic Christ has been following a certain pattern for billions of years and that appreciating this may be one aspect of learning to see as the Creator sees.
I think of the almost infinite number of experiments in the Universe, some of which are our deep ancestors and most of which become extinct and make a different contribution: even our breakfast egg becomes food and energy. In this pattern where all things belong and lose their lives within the bigger good-news story, I can only give thanks and praise for the life-forms who have nourished my existence and pray for the faith to contribute my own life for the sake of Great Love. I am amazed that I have a choice in this and it seems to be about loving and living in accord with the Great Self which includes body and spirit beyond the small self.
The Great Spirit seems to be teaching me (and I am a slow learner in this) of the significance of the physical act of breathing with awareness as key to this way of living. The message is coming through various readings and my attempts to pass on the lesson to the students in the forest. One aspect is to breathe in the suffering of the world and of one’s neighbour, allow Ruah to transform it and then to breathe out the life-giving energy. I wonder where following Jesus in this pattern will take me and my communities in these times of war, asylum seekers and a building El Niño.
May all of us grow in the trust that we are protected in the way of all ‘eggs’ in the heart and mind of Divine Mystery and follow one step at a time.
6 September 2015. (Mk 7:31-37)
To each of us, the breath-sigh of Jesus opening up our latent and inherent possibilities. For two days last week (and for three days next week) we are guiding classes of year 9 students on a retreat day in Toolangi State Forest. My task is to take a group of about twelve for 30-40 minutes and my focus has been to invite them to breathe deeply, open their senses and take in the spirit of the place. I tell them that spirituality is about ‘Ruah’ – the one word for breath, wind and Spirit – and about ‘Wow!’ moments when they feel, see, hear, smell and taste something new and exciting. I suggest that the one word prayer, ‘Thanks!’ is significant. I wonder how much the students take in of these simple-but-not-easy steps so that they do open themselves to the experience. I am enjoying the opportunity to walk with them and to challenge them to sense with new eyes and ears. I trust that the Spirit can work in wonderful ways when I do my little bit of breathing and responding.
I like to think that my efforts are a true echo of Jesus making deaf hear and dumb speak. These are signs of his Reign of Empowerment then and now and point to the cosmic dimensions of our own personal growth and evolution. The Spirit seems to have been at work for me in the last few days of forest activity when I saw an article on a report which says that there are 3.04 trillion trees on Earth at the moment. The educated guesses are that this is about half the number of trees that existed before humans began to have an impact and that there are about ten million fewer every year. That’s about 400 trees for each of us with one disappearing every twelve months. I think of deforestation and bush fires – and about the description from Isaiah in today’s readings. The time of the coming of Divine Presence is to be marked by water in deserts and scorched earth becoming lakes – as happened when trees ‘developed’ ways of thriving away from waters’ edges and spreading into barren lands. It will happen when we co-creators care enough about our common home and act together in the Spirit. In an ideal world, children will see and fall in love with the beauty all around and within us.
It seems as though there were many species of trees evolving separately three to four hundred million years ago. There may have been no single ancestor ‘tree’ from which all descended. Somehow, led by the Spirit, there were independent and parallel origins of things like leaves, roots, stomata, capillaries and other structures we see today. They spread from many places and transformed Earth’s surface in partnership with animals. They enabled streams, lakes, bio-regions and micro climates. These were the possibilities and consequences inherent in this part of our unfolding Universe and I wonder what else lies just out of reach of our senses and imagination.
Just as people were surprised and delighted when they saw Jesus healing the sick, deaf, speech impaired and crippled, we can celebrate Spirit at work in many places on every continent where people care and make efforts to enhance the web of life. We also need our eyes, ears and tongues opened to the forces of death and destruction as we join those who cannot keep quiet about the Cosmic Christ.
May all of us be alive in and through Ruah – the living, breathing, healing One who does much more than we ask or imagine.