Sunday reflection


Fr. Jonathan’s Sunday Reflection for the Fifth Sunday of Lent Year A

 In these uncertain times, during the Coronavirus Crisis hitting the human family around the world, the Readings at Mass today present us with the human face of Jesus. Different people react in different ways in times of crisis, and a cross-section of reactions are portrayed in the Gospel today. The way in which Jesus engages with these different reactions is a lesson for us all, prompting us to reflect on how we cope in times of crisis as missionary, disciple-making Catholic Christians, reflecting the face of the risen Lord Jesus in our daily lives.

 

A great friend of Jesus, Lazarus, the brother of Martha and Mary, was dying, and Jesus hung back from rushing to his side. Why? Because Jesus could see a bigger picture. He could see an opportunity to show his friends and disciples, and also unbelievers, some of whom were his enemies, trying to find a reason to have him killed, an opportunity to reveal the full extent of his power and authority. Of course, Jesus wanted to help his friend Lazarus. But he was going to help him in a way nobody had foreseen – and bring a message of hope to everyone in the human family who have to face times of crisis – just like you and I have to face today.

 

Some disciples cannot see beyond death. They are full of doom and gloom in face of a crisis. The limited faith of these disciples meant that they were worried that if Jesus went up to Jerusalem, nearby where Lazarus, Martha & Mary lived, then Jesus would be arrested and killed by his enemies. The dream would be over. Unable to dissuade Jesus, Thomas declared, “Let us go and die with him!” Today, disciples limited faith can hold them back in their Christian living, and they prefer to play it safe and not take risks in standing by others in times of crisis. Of course, we need to be sensible and safe in times of crisis. But, there are so many ways to think creatively about how we can use our God given gifts to serve others and show that Jesus is Lord of Life. For example, they would not be one of the half a million Volunteers who have come forward to support the NHS.

 

And then there’s Martha and Mary. The practical Martha, who said quite bluntly what she thought, coped by having a theological discussion on faith with Jesus. The demonstrative Mary, on the other hand, was overcome with emotion and the tears flowed, prompting those around her to cry, touching Jesus to sigh from the depths of his heart and weep openly. Jesus, in his humanity is with us as we use our reason, trying to make sense of the crisis and find the right words to explain it all. And Jesus is with us when we are overcome with emotion in the face of sickness and death, and yes, we cry. And Jesus, as a man, cries, too. It’s ok for men, as well as women, to cry, too. Jesus is with us.

 

And in a few weeks, after restoring Lazarus to life, showing that he, Jesus, has power over death and is Lord of life, he not only stands with us in times of crisis, but he enters into the heart of the crisis and leads us through in the power of the Holy Spirit to restoration, transfiguration, new beginnings full of hope. Jesus died on Calvary Hill and was buried. But Jesus, too, is risen and alive! And as we cling to him in faith, he will see us through to the other side of the crisis.

 

For the truth is, through our Baptism, the Holy Spirit has made his home in you and me, the same Holy Spirit who enabled Jesus to rise from the dead. The ability of Jesus to empathise with us in our humanity and the struggles of life can deepen our faith in him to unbind us and set us free from whatever is preventing us from being truly missionary, evangelising, disciple-making Catholic Christians. United to Jesus, we missionary disciples of Jesus, weep with those who weep and laugh with those who laugh. We stand by one another, as one human family, journeying together in solidarity, using the gifts God has given us to bring hope and new life to everyone, and by our words and example to offer faith in Jesus our Saviour by being the Good News we preach.

 

Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Do you believe this? Let us pray with Mary, “Yes, Lord I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, the one who was to come into this world.”



Fr Paul’s Sunday reflection on 4th Sunday of Lent Year A (John 9:1-41)


Who would have believed it? A blind man becomes a teacher, a man assumed by the Religious leaders, to be a sinner because of his affliction, actually becomes a witness, a disciple of Jesus!


This beautifully crafted story in John’s gospel tells how a blind man comes to see the light in Jesus, and what’s more, those who are able to see, are in fact blind to God’s love and presence in Jesus.


Have a look at this weekend’s gospel (John 9:1-41), read it through to yourself, it’s all about ‘sight’ and ‘seeing through faith’. When Jesus heals the blind man, he is made new. When he returns home, his neighbours can’t believe their eyes – ‘it’s impossible’ they think to themselves, he’s been blind from birth!’ They’d watched him grow up; he’d always been blind! It can’t be him! It is me! ‘I am the man!’ he tells them!


OK, but how? The man goes on to tell his family and friends and neighbours that it was the man called Jesus who made him see. And the more people questioned him and wondered who this ‘Jesus’ was, the more he grows to understand that the man called Jesus is so very important. Clearly, he is a man of kindness and compassion, a man who lives God’s love like no one else, but he’s more than this. As the man born blind tells the authorities with great confidence, ‘he is a prophet’. When Jesus and the man get to chat again, later on in the story, he comes to a complete understanding of who Jesus is – he’s more than a kind man, he’s more than a prophet – ‘Lord’ the man declares, ‘I believe!’ Look at his development in faith. He moves from ‘the man they call Jesus’ to ‘a prophet’ and finally to ‘Lord’. His faith is propelled to a new level. Yes, he can see physically now, but that’s only part of the man’s new life. His spiritual sight, his faith in Jesus, goes beyond any physical seeing. It’s the spiritual sight that makes this man really new!


Each of us can struggle in some way with our ‘spiritual blindness’ – at times we can think that God isn’t listening to us, our prayer life becomes a bit dry, we can become a bit ‘hit and miss’ with the practice of our faith – these things can happen to any of us! Coming to the Lord in faith, knowing how important he Is, can be a sudden experience for some, but for most of us, like the man born blind, it’s a much more gradual process that can take time, it can sometimes take years to achieve and appreciate and understand the Lord’s power and love in our lives. But taking time is important, understanding is crucial if our faith is to grow.


It’s easy to become over familiar with the prayers that we say. Even words like Lord and Son of God and Saviour, these kinds of titles we give Jesus can sometimes become just words that we say rather than words we believe or fully understand. They can become more of an automatic familiarity if we’re not careful, rather than said in real faith, with a knowledge of who Jesus is.


Meeting Jesus, encountering Jesus changed the blind man’s life. Encountering Jesus is one of the three themes remember that was introduced by Bishop Patrick last year. Encountering Jesus can change our lives too, and when it does, like the blind man in the story, our spiritual sight becomes clearer, we’re never quite the same again. That spiritual sight, that deep understanding leads us too, to become disciples of the Lord, teachers and witnesses of who Jesus is and what a difference he can make to us.


So, let’s never give up on our faith journey. It can be slow and gradual, but the closer we get to the Lord, the more he will impact on our lives, the more we recognise how important he is to us.


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