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Sunday, 09 June 2024 / Published in Church Reflections

The Pastor’s Reflections

In today’s gospel passage we see Jesus hav- ing a very bad day. He’s preaching at the Sea of Galilee. It’s very early in his ministry, but even so, large crowds had gathered from the surrounding area because he was curing the sick and expelling demons. He ministered to as many as possible, and he and his apostles were exhausted.

Jesus’ family had heard about the crowds and that he and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat. They set out to forcibly bring him home.

Jesus and the twelve finally returned home but the crowds followed them. Teach- ers of the Law were among the crowd. They tried to discredit the miracles and wonders he was performing by saying that he was linked with the most powerful of demons, Beelzebub. Jesus refuted their accusation by reminding them that a kingdom divided against itself collapses. He went so far as to ac- cuse them of sinning against the Holy Spirit for accusing him of aligning himself with the devil.

His day ended with his family, “his mother and brothers,” arriving at the house de- manding to “see” him. It wasn’t difficult enough to be fighting with the religious law- yers from Jerusalem, now his family was de- claring him insane and trying to get him out of the public eye.

I believe that this not-so-good day for Je- sus is noted at the beginning of Mark’s gos- pel to encourage us. If Jesus, the prophet, the healer, the exorcist, the Son of God, suf- fered verbal abuse, harassment and misun- derstanding, should any of us, his disciples and ministers, expect 100% acceptance?

Saint Paul encourages us today, “We are not discouraged, rather, although our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” Let’s face it, following in Jesus’ footsteps is challenging. Everything changes – even our relationships. “And look- ing around…he said, ‘Here are my mother and brothers. For whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’”

Sunday, 02 June 2024 / Published in Church Reflections

The Pastor’s Reflections

Today we’re going reflect on the feast of the Body of the Body and Blood of Christ through the prism of Covenant. The Jewish scriptures note a number of covenants – legal agreements between God and the people. The three most important covenants in the Old Testament were ratified with Abraham, Noah and Moses.

God called to Abraham asking him to leave his home and his people. He promised him that he would be the father of a great people who would be as numer- ous as the sand of the seashore. The covenant was ratified in the context of a sacred sacrifice. Abraham slaughtered a number of animals as God had directed him. He then cut them in two and separated the parts placing them a few feet from each other. God put Abra- ham into a trance and then appeared as a column of fire. Walking between the sacrificial animals God con- sumed them in the fire. This ratified the covenant be- tween God and Abraham. Abraham and his children would be faithful to God and, in turn, God would make Abraham a great nation. The sign of this covenant was circumcision.

After the great flood God made a covenant between himself and creation. Leaving the ark, Noah slaugh- tered a number of animals and burned the carcasses as a sacrificial offering pleasing to God. God promised that he would never again destroy the world by a flood re-establishing his relationship with creation. He made the rainbow the sign of this covenant.

During the great theophany at Mount Sinai God en- tered into a covenant with the Jewish people. He re- newed the covenant he had made with Abraham, and gave them the law that formally made them a nation. Moses built an altar and gathered the people before it. He slaughtered a number of bulls and drained their blood into basins. To ratify the covenant Moses poured some of the blood onto the altar. The remaining blood he sprinkled over the people. This was a sacred cove- nant between God and the Jewish people – it was ratified in the blood of a sacrifice. Having a sense of the sacredness of these blood covenants we can move to a deeper understanding of the account of the Last Sup- per that we’ve read in today’s Gospel.

The passage begins with these words: “On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when they sacrificed the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples said to him, ‘Where do you want us to go and prepare for you to eat the Passover?’”

This Passover will be Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples. In a matter of hours, he will be sacrificed on the cross. There, he, like Abraham, Noah and Moses, will be the priest offering the sacrifice. How- ever, he is also the sacrificial victim. His blood will ratify the covenant. At this meal Jesus will establish the everlasting sign of this covenant. “He took bread, blessed it, broke it and gave it to them and said: ‘Take it. This is my body.’ He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is the blood of the covenant which will be shed for many.’”

In this meal, this Eucharist, Jesus offered the bread of his body. They accepted it. They ate it. He offered the wine of his blood. They drank it and en- tered into the most sacred covenant ever imagined. It was sealed in the blood of Christ.

Today, the Feast of the Body and Blood of the Lord, we take our place at the table of the Last Sup- per with him. Today, we stand at the foot of the cross. We see him poured out in sacrifice. Today, we remember his words, “Do this in memory of me,” and re-affirm the terms of this most sacred covenant. We eat his body, broken. We drink his blood, shed. We sing out, “When we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim the death of the Lord.” In each Eucharist we accept the terms of the covenant to follow his new law, to love one another as he loved us. We seal this covenant in the blood of the Lamb.

Sunday, 26 May 2024 / Published in Church Reflections

The Pastor’s Reflections

The three readings follow each other in an interesting sequence this week as we celebrate Trinity Sunday. In the first read- ing from the book of Deuteronomy, Moses, in his final address to the people, reminds them of their special relationship with God by pointing out the tremendous ways God mani- fested himself to them. God, almighty and all- powerful, was their protector. He showed his might by sending ten plagues upon the Egyp- tians and then guiding the Jewish People out of Egypt. He recalls the theophany at Mount Sinai when God descended on the mountain in fire and thunder and lightning, gave them the Law and sealed the covenant that claimed them as his chosen people.

In the second reading, taken from the let- ter to the Romans, St. Paul moves away from the image of God as the almighty and all- powerful. He stresses that through Christ each of us has been adopted by God, and so we’re elevated as children of God. The Spirit, present in us, continually gives witness to this adoption. As God’s children we now have confidence to address God as Abba, father – daddy – papa.

In the gospel passage, the resurrected Je- sus commissions the apostles to “make disci- ples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and Holy Spirit.” Now, everyone is special, and every- one is called to enter this intimate relation- ship with God.

God revealed himself most clearly and de- finitively in the person of Jesus who, in his life and preaching, brought to light the very essence of God – love. That love is extended to us through the Spirit who’s always with us and in us, drawing us into a profound and intimate relationship with God.

Through Christ, the Word of God, we’re drawn into the life of the Trinity – the life of love. This is the wonderful mystery we cele- brate today.

Sunday, 19 May 2024 / Published in Church Reflections

The Pastor’s Reflections

We have arrived at Pentecost – the exclamation point that ends our sevenweek celebration of Easter. During those weeks, many scripture passages were given to us for our prayerful contemplation.

We listened to the account of the two disciples who came to recognize Jesus when he broke bread with them. We witnessed Thomas abandon his disbelief to acknowledge Jesus as his personal Lord and God. We heard Jesus promise us that he would be our shepherd never failing to care for us. He revealed his profound connection with us when he told us that he was the vine and we were the branches. He went on to call us his friends and special confidants. He consecrated us and commissioned us to continue the work he began. Finally, he promised to send us the Spirit of truth.

In preparation for the Spirit’s anointing today I invite you to, first and foremost, open your hearts and minds to the peace Jesus offers us. He greets us with the same greeting he extended to the apostles, Shalom. It’s the peace that rests in the heart of God – the peace that banishes fear – the peace that gives power to our witness. It’s the peace that opens our ears to the meaning of the scriptures.

“When the time of Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place. And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, and it filled the entire house in which they were.” This is the Ruah Yahweh – the divine breath that swept over the waters of chaos making the land dry ready for life. This is the whirlwind that lifted Elijah to heaven. This is the strong east wind that

parted the Red Sea. This is the warm, moist breath that Jesus breathed on the disciples on the day of his resurrection.

“Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them.” This is the fire of the burning bush from which God revealed the divine name, “I AM.” This is the pillar of fire that led the people of Israel through the desert. This is the refiner’s fire that would purify the world. This is the lamp put on the lamp stand to bring light to all in the house.

“And they were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.” Recreated, purified, their hearts opened to the word of God, the Spirit destroyed the barriers preventing them from witnessing to the resurrected Lord.


PRAYER

Loving Father, gathered in your name

we implore you drive all our fears from us.

Pour your holy peace into our hearts.

Purify us and speak your name to us from the eternal fire of your love.

Loosen our tongues that we might speak only your word

that our word may heal as his healed that our word may speak the truth as he did.

May we bring your fire to the earth.

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