B, Advent 1 Jesus returns
“The master of the house is coming.” Mk 13:35
Come back! You had already come once in time, bringing joy, revealing depths we had not imagined, and bringing us to selves we had not known. Come again and again! Come in, come further and further in, not just to the villages of Galilee, but into the heart, into the depths of the spirit and deeper still, for there is no limit to your returning, and nothing can hold you back.
Then we shall become who we are, and indeed become your very self. You will return to us as we turn into you. We turn to each other as you return in us.
You turned to us in compassion and returned to the heavens. You came in the weakness of flesh and will return in the glory of the spirit. Return to us now, and let us go back with you to the beginning, where all is present in the eternal Presence. Come back to us so that we can draw close to each other.
In the interplay of absence and presence, of leaving and returning, in a constant vibration of departure and arrival, we hunger ever more for your return. Yours is a constant visitation. Yours is the eternal return. This is the divine purpose: delight leading to the cry of greater delight, “Come again, bringing us joy upon joy”.
B, Advent 1 Jesus is Lord
“The Master of the house…” Mk 13:35
All things come from you, and to the you all are destined. You hold all beings together and you fulfill their every purpose. All emanates spontaneously from you, and you rejoice in the outpouring. In your lordship you projects your love, and in the full confidence of your lordship you surrender to this love. There is neither barrier nor dominance. All is accomplished without effort, and with complete mastery. Nothing is foreign, nothing alien. Looking out at the world, all is seen as the expression of your inner self; looking inwards to your heart, all is seen as already present in potentiality. The inner and the outer are the one.
The immense variety is your bride. “The whole world is his śaktis.” Every truth is an aspect of your truth. In the universal Lord the differing views are not in opposition: they are the varied radiance of your one light. They are recognized as your own. Their truth is a revelation of your truth. You are their Lord not by wielding power over them but because you recognize himself in them. You decline all power and therefore all power comes to you. You are the truest Hindu among Hindus, the truest Muslim among Muslims. So you revere them as your own truth.
So there is no ‘this or that’, no ‘mine or yours’. There is neither subject nor object; all is the Self. All are gathered into you, the Christ, who hold all together. Whatever is not identified with you fragments. All are subject to you who in turn are subject to the One, so that there is only one ‘I am’.
When all have become as you are, Lord, then at last you will truly be Lord.
B, Advent 2 Christ and the Angels
“I am going to send my messenger before you.” Mk 1.2
Countless species and particles, the futurables and possibles: they amaze us in their variety. They are messengers, surrounding us, teaching us, revealing the divine, and bringing salvation.
There are also other orders of being: ‘angels’ and ‘archangels’, ‘cherubim’ and ‘seraphim’. They are persons, manifesting the Person of God. They are forms of the Word, announcing the Word. They are energies of the Spirit, for the Spirit gives rise to spirits, in a broadening radiance, sparks from the divine furnace. From out the incandescent stillness, Spirit and the attendant spirits radiate, powerful as fire, messengers of God, obedient to the Heart and revealing the Heart.
Yet the Christ is greater than all the orders of angels, for he has been brought lower than them all. (cf. Heb 2.9) Incarnate in the vulnerability of flesh, he has experienced the extremes of good and evil, the heights and the depths; and therefore he surpasses them. What they do partially he does completely. The angels gathered at his birth but he breathes the Spirit from the cross. The seraphim cry out “Holy, Holy, Holy”, but he sacrifices himself, making all holy. The angels are messengers but he is the Word.
B, Advent 2 Jesus the Messiah
“The Good News about Jesus Christ” Mk 1:1
The Jewish people had trembled at the sound of the invading Roman armies; they had groaned at the corruption of the High Priests. They also looked back to the glories of the past and trusted in the promises of the future. They hoped for a “prophet like Moses” (cf. Dt 18.15) who would lead them out of slavery; an “angel” (Ex 23.20) who would guide them to the Promised Land; a “Son of David”, who would set them free. At last John the Baptist comes, heralding the one whose sandals he is not worthy to untie.
The true Messiah would indeed free his people from darkness and reveal the unseen God. He would take away guilt and death. He would establish the kingdom of justice and peace. He would enable each to realize their own selves. He would save their every thought and action, their strength and their weakness. He would stand by everyone, in their glory as in their humiliation. He would love them as God had loved. Such would be the true Messiah. Any other would be a fake.
Hope is the anticipation of what is promised. It is the expectation of what is not yet real. It is the possession even now of what will come. Hope is the presumption of one’s future self. What was there about the Good News that promised a future beyond land and religion, a hope beyond hope? The rest of the Gospel will tell.
B, Advent 3 John recognizes Jesus
“He came … as a witness to speak for the light” Jn 1:7
Jesus walks along the Jordan. John the Baptist sees him, recognizes him and cries out, “There is the Lamb of God”. He recognizes him because he has already known him. The Word had already come to John in the desert. Indeed, the Word had come to him in Mary’s voice, when the young virgin with child greeted the crone with child, her cousin Elisabeth. As Mary called out, the Word was carried by her voice and came to John who leapt with joy.
John had been true to the Torah such as no one had been, for he is the true pattern of righteousness. He is not the Word but is true to the Word. He is the manifestation of the one Word through whom all things are made. He is the perfect expression the Word, so that the Word is his very being, his very essence. He now realizes that he himself is the sound of the Word. He knows himself as the essentially inhabited by the Word, and he is intensely glad.
John had known from within, but now he sees from without. He is now able to declare in clear language what he had already known in an unformed way. The acclamation ‘This is the Lamb of God’ comes easily to his lips.
The heart leaps at the moment of discovery. The recognition is the renewal of a cognition. It is the acknowledgment that what is seen outside already exists within. It is the revelation of depths hitherto unseen. The outer is a reminder of the inner. What is seen externally is the realization in time of what has been known obscurely.
Thus Jesus comes to John not as to a stranger but as to someone in whose heart he already dwells. He is welcomed to where he has always lived. The experience in John’s soul is the forecast of what he sees in the flesh. Jesus is the Word in John.
B, Advent 3 John and Jesus
“He was not the light, only a witness to speak for the light.” Jn 1:8
John had known the Light from the beginning when, in the darkness of his mother’s womb, he leapt with joy at the presence of the Saviour. From his earliest youth he had observed the Torah without the shadow of doubt and without the stain of sin.
He has secretly known the eternal Light and therefore he gives witness publicly: “There is the Lamb of God”. He had known the Word in the heart and now he proclaims the Word in the flesh.
John recognizes Jesus. He does not appoint, for he has no authority over the one to whom all authority is given, but he does recognize.
Jesus for his part justifies John and shows that John’s deepest experience is authentic, that his knowledge is true. Jesus’ admiration for John is unbounded: John is ‘the greatest man ever born of woman’ (Mt 11.11), the ‘Elijah’ (Mt 11.14), the ‘bridegroom’s attendant’ (Jn 3.29).
John has the mind of his Master, but must he always remain on the outside, excluded from the kingdom? John is happy for the bridegroom, but can he never know the bridegroom’s joy? He knows the Word, but can he never be the Word. Is he a witness to the Light but never the Light, an adopted son but never true Son? Does his proclamation of Jesus mean the denigration of himself?
But the true Light makes all Light; the Word makes all Word. Jesus and John are two but not dual. Only like can know like. The same proclaims the same. The self is known by the self. John is the expression of Jesus; in John Jesus finds his place. John and Jesus recognize themselves in each other.
B, Advent 4 “The … Spirit will… cover you.”
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you …. The power of the Most High will cover you with its shadow” Lk 1:35
The Spirit is opportunity and receptivity, hearing and evocation. The Spirit enables the Word to be Word. The Spirit makes the Word effective. The Spirit indeed is the purpose of the Trinity. The Spirit is God.
She to whom the Spirit comes is “most highly favoured”, for she is completely graced and identified with the Spirit. Where Mary is, there is the Spirit. The two are not dual but one. To see her is to see the energy and the transcendence, the determination and the attraction of the Spirit.
Mary is the image of the Spirit. She accepts to be overshadowed by the Spirit and by none other; she refuses to be the mother of the ‘Son of David’ except by the Power of the Most High.
The Word wishes to speak the message of love; to Mary in the first place and then to all mankind. She is the foremost recipient of the Gospel. As the power of the Spirit she brings the Word to the earth. At Bethlehem she utters the Word into the world.
B, Advent 4 Mary the Virgin
“The angel Gabriel was sent … to a virgin” Lk 1:27
You appear suddenly in the narrative, Mary, without explanation. You would seem to be a person of no consequence but your weakness is your strength. You are without presumption or prejudice, without distortion of mind or heart. You belong to no one, and therefore you are available to all. You are approachable and welcoming, receptive and clear. From start to finish you are virginal; you is void. You upset all plans and deconstruct all ideas. Neither passive nor compliant, you are compelling. Therefore you are irresistible. You are the Kālī.
At first you refuse the angel’s proposal. You know love from the moment of your conception and will accept nothing less than the fullest expression of love. You wait till the angel announces the fullness of the gift: ‘that the Holy Spirit will overshadow you’. Heaven cannot resist the expectancy of your faith. Therefore you become expectant with child.
At Nazareth, you evoke the Word till it becomes flesh in you. Assumed into heaven you give eternal birth to the Church from your glorified flesh. No one can resist the your virginal transforming power.
B, Christmas, Midnight “For us”
“For us …” Nicene Creed
You come as The Child for us and not for yourself; for us and not as some vengeful deity against us; for us, and not out of private ambition; for us and not out of necessity. Your coming is pure grace. For our sakes you join us and stay with us as the centre of the wheeling universe. You come for us, and for the sake of the One who sent you.
You, the Word of God, are addressed to human beings, and can best speak to humans by taking on human flesh, speaking as flesh to flesh; speaking to those in distress by being in distress, to those in joy by knowing joy. The whole of humanity must be experienced in yourself if you are to speak to all humanity.
So, freely and without condescension, you descend and take on limitation. You will seem to be one of many although all things are of you. You will seem to be limited although all is your very self. You who fill the universe become limited at Bethlehem. In the stable the Light becomes dark. It is the obscuration.
Your descent is not failure but triumph. Indeed, the concealment is revelation, for it shows the compassion, the delight that you, the Word, take in all the variety of the world. You delight to do “things improbable and impossible”. As Word you go through all the stages of the Word, choosing to be expressed in a Jewish way and in Roman times, you, Jesus, the Child of Bethlehem, limited and fragile yet containing all in yourself.
You love those who are your very self. In loving us you loves yourself. Out of love for your self you take others to yourself; and later you will teach your disciples to love others as they love themselves.
When at last the listeners have heard the Word and become the Word, they will do the same, identifying with the least and delighting in the weak as in themselves, and so reveal the Word they have become. This is their salvation: to be the Word ‘for others’.
B, Christmas, Dawn “For our salvation”
“They found … the baby lying in the manger.” Lk 2:16
From the outset, before even he is born in the stable, Jesus comes to save. His whole being is orientated to this; the fetus in the womb develops according to this: “our salvation”. As his limbs develop and his mind forms, it is always with salvation at the goal. He cannot, will not, be otherwise. He does not become a saviour. He is saviour from the start.
Jesus comes among the ‘walking wounded’ and the ‘living dead’, those who live and partly live, the disappointed and the dissipated, even the successful and the self-appointed saviours, for all need salvation. All need to be freed from inadequacy and superficiality, from transience and the consequences of sin.
He comes among them, seeing them as himself, and making them see him as their real self. He enables them to look upon the world and see it as their domain, their body, their very being. Seeing the Saviour who saves them, they become saviour and save themselves.
He comes to set people ‘free from’ but also ‘free for’, in order that all humans might come to power and be able to exercise all authority in heaven and on earth. Knowing the saving Word they become the saving Word. Their every word becomes a saving mantra; their every act becomes a saving ritual. They too can say that they live “for our salvation”.
When salvation is complete, the old divisions disappear. Heaven is earth, God is man, nature is grace, time is eternity, profane is sacred; death and life are one. All is one and God is all in all. Who, then, is the saviour, who is saved, what is salvation? All is one. All is grace.
B, Christmas, Day Jesus’ consciousness
“It is the Only Son, who is nearest to the Father’s heart, who has made him known.” Jn 1:18
You, the Child, lie in the manger, knowing nothing and yet knowing everything. You know all since you are the Word in whom all things are made; you know nothing since you are made flesh. Your consciousness is total and is nil. You are not conscious of this or that, as you lie asleep in the manger, yet you are conscious of all. All is latent, all is present.
You begin to learn even as you begin to live in the womb and come into the world. Since you are without sin, your vision is untroubled, clear, direct, without fear, without ambition, without desire. With the lucidity, which comes from power, you see truly. With the mind of God you see as God sees. Free from craving, you are united with what you see, not apart nor opposed.
You experience pain and pleasure and you respond with clarity and calm, with stillness and vigour. Your sensitivity is complete, without callousness, or violence. You become what you see, and what you see becomes who you are, for your look is transformative.
Yet you know the confusion of ignorance and the uncertainty of every life, as your mind struggles to understand. Ignorance disturbs you. You will know the agony of indecision, “What shall I say?” (Jn 12:27)
When you have experienced the worst of death you will come to completeness of knowledge. Your human consciousness will be fully inhabited by divine Consciousness. Your consciousness will be fully expansive once you love has been completely manifested. You heart reveals the Father’s Heart.
B, The Holy Family Old Simeon and Anna
“You can let your servant go in peace …” Lk 2:29
Simeon has left aside the questing days of youth. He has gone beyond the satisfaction and dissatisfaction of work. He has taken into his aged arms the hope of his life and of his people. He has seen the “light of all nations” and “the glory of Israel”. Neither death nor life can affect him. He is fulfilled. He can now “go in peace” for he has come into the possession of his truth.
Anna, the old woman, the prophetess, sees the child and cannot stop speaking of him to all who come to the Temple. She has seen its dearest Child, her cherished Lord.
There is a time to be young and a time to be old, a time for searching and a time for discovery, a time for dark hair and for grey, for vitality and tiredness, a time for uncertainty and a time for wisdom.
The value of age is to look back on life and to understand, to put aside the mistakes and to acknowledge the achievements. It is a time of assessment, a time to say: this is my life, this is my truth, this is my defining grace. Despite the weakness and the incompletion, this is who I am, my glory, my share in the one Light, my destiny, my fulfillment which neither life nor death can take away, this is my gate into eternity. To this I assent with all my heart and I rejoice forever.
B, The Holy Family Jesus the adolescent
“Meanwhile the child grew to maturity, and he was filled with wisdom; and God’s favour was with him.” Lk 2:52.
Jesus is taken to Nazareth. Little is known about his life there. Had Joseph married before? Were there siblings from a first marriage? Did Jesus grow up with other boys and girls in the house who were effectively his brothers and sisters? Did he quarrel with them and fight as is normal for all children as they form their character? Did he have childish fancies. How did he learn that the world is real and does not obey a child’s every whim? When did he begin to leave his mother’s side and explore the lanes and fields of Nazareth? When did he begin to learn his trade as a carpenter under Joseph’s tutelage? For he was like us in all things but sin. When did he first feel the stirrings of sexuality? When did the girls suddenly begin to look attractive? Did they throw him side-glances as he started to develop his manly features? Did he have the dreams of love? What did people think when he refused the proposals of the matchmakers? He was refusing to fulfill one of his most solemn duties: to provide offspring for Abraham. Did they begun to think him odd or selfish? Did the villagers become angry with him for refusing their daughters? Did his young companions poke fun at him? Jesus was giving his first sign: born of the virgin he would remain a virgin. His celibacy was scandalous in his time as it is today.
But he was no ‘shrinking violet’. If Jacob had twelve sons by the power of the flesh, Jesus would create twelve disciples by the power of his word. If the people of Israel descends physically from Jacob, the countless millions of the Church are formed by the speech that come from Jesus’ mouth. He will reveal his inmost secrets and bare his soul. He will give his very body as food and pour out his blood, body to body, body making body, blood giving life, blood making us one blood.
B, Mary, Mother of God Mary the Woman
“The shepherds hurried away to Bethlehem and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the manger…” Lk 2:16
You are the Woman; you are “blessed among all women”. You are virgin and mother. You are the fullness of womanhood, the essence of femininity. You are Mother of God and Mother of the Church. You are the bearer of the future, and the goal of humanity.
You are virgin and at first you refuse the message of the angel since he has so far failed to guarantee that your virginity will remain. Your virginity puts all things in question. Eve plucked the fruit of the Tree of Life, but you want the supreme fruit to dwell in you.
You are wife to Joseph, as woman to man, without ceasing to be virgin. You are faithful to our virginity and so can be woman for every man.
You give birth and impart your character to the Word made flesh. His first human experiences are with you, in your womb, in your birth canal, and at your breast.
Assumed into heaven, you attract all to yourself, drawing out the best in every human being, transforming all creation.
Queen of Heaven, you turn earth into heaven. To see you smile is to know the beatific vision. In contemplating you, all are taken into the ultimate mystery and are born at last.
B, Mary, Mother of God Mary, Mother of God
“The shepherds hurried away to Bethlehem and found Mary…” Lk 2:16
From the beginning of your existence you are free, Mary, you are lucid, untrammeled and virginal. Therefore you can summon heaven to earth. Who could resist you? As the Virgin you can give birth to God.
How can creature give rise to the Creator? Yet the paradox is intended. You show that God is God indeed, “doing what is improbable and impossible”.
And your work continues. You are mother of the Word in time and mother of the world to come. You refashion the future in the image of the one whom the shepherds came to see.
By divine grace our own minds become virginal, unattached. They are not tied to ‘this or that’ but universal, embracing all that is, both heaven and earth, “keeping all these things in [the] heart”, all times and seasons, in the self which places no obstacle, available, expansive, and welcoming.
You, who give birth to the God-man, give birth to the man-God.
B, Epiphany Atheism
“Where is the infant king of the Jews? We have come to do him homage.” Mt 2:2
The endless march of evil and the interminable suffering of the innocent – how can a loving God permit such things? Either he is powerless or he does not love. In either case he is not God.
And again, we breathe more easily when there is no father figure, no dominating super-ego. How can humans reach maturity if there is a God who excels them and dominates, commands and punishes?
Atheists purify our minds of false gods and false ideas about God. The God, who is rejected, is not the God of the Gospel but an invention of the mind. They challenge and question. Thank God for them.
Others again may choose atheism because their hearts have grown coarse with worry and ambition. The consumerist society cannot be bothered with divinity.
Yet, in the experience of wonder Someone is perceived who transcends this world. In moments of liberation there is a sense of an infinite Power. In the intimacy of love, lovers the Lover from whom their love derives.
Proofs of the mind are not needed when experience convinces. Moments of wonder are occasions of grace, outside our control.
The Magi forget their star when they see the Child and his Mother. What was there about this archetypal image that persuaded them to open their treasures and their heart? They give gifts in tribute: gold to the King, incense to the God, myrrh to the Victim.
B, Epiphany The Temple
“… going into the house they saw the child with his mother Mary.” Mt 2:11
The magi come to Jerusalem, but they do not stay. They turn their backs on the Holy City and go in search of the Child. To him they offer their gifts, placed not on the altar but at the feet the newborn King and his Mother. Here is the true Temple. The subject nations used to bring their gifts to the Great King at Persepolis; now, in the Magi, all the races of the earth pay tribute to the Child. For in him, the divine is fully present.
The Child has come. There is no need for temples. The Temple is found in everyone to whom the presence of God has been revealed. The meditator is the sacred shrine where angels and saints gather in stillness. Here in one’s own body is the temple of heaven. The pilgrimage is to oneself. To the enlightened conscience, all the goods of the earth and every delight of heaven are offered in tribute.
Standing in the sacred precinct the pilgrim says ‘Yes, here is “the house of God and the gate of Heaven” (Gn 28:17)’, so as to acknowledge the same of himself. He perceives outside himself what he knows within himself. ‘I am this Temple. It is the expression of my own self and of my community. I have come home and have come to myself. This is the temple, I am the temple, we are the temple, one Temple.’ We need sacred places so as to know that we are sacred. The external Temple does not replace but reveals the inner Temple.
The couple engaged in their lovemaking constitute the holy Temple. Around them the saints gather, along with the angels, and all cry out with joy. The hidden God is revealed in the intimacy of the couple; in their union the Temple is established.
Wherever people gather in love: that is the Temple. They sum up the heavens and the earth.
B, Lent 1 The First Adam
“He was with the wild beasts and the angels looked after him.” Mk 1.13
Who was the first human being? Can the question even be asked? Is the human being a work in progress, with no clear beginning and no end to its capacity?
We know so little, yet it is certain that the human is radically different from the most intelligent of animals. The animals, for all their wonder, show how even more splendid is the human. Reason, when at last it begins to function, shows how much it is needed. Likewise grace, when it is given, reveals the need for grace.
We stand in amazement at the magnificence of this gift and its effect, when the mind opens onto worlds previously unimagined. The present perfection of the human being is small compared to what it will become on its path to fullness of life.
‘If it is certain that in Adam all have fallen, it is even more certain that grace comes through Christ Jesus.’ (Cf. Rm 5:15) The New Adam reveals the Old Adam. Perfection reveals imperfection. Beauty reveals tawdriness. The moment of grace is the revelation of sin.
The sin of Adam begins with a lie and error. Since he lacks understanding, his acts are disastrous. The effects are mixed, however, because the knowledge is imperfect. He is blamed for his acts, but the blame is small. The first human knows but hardly knows. There is sin but hardly sin, for the sin is minimal. Yet the wrong path has been taken and the error will worsen till such time as the fullness of grace comes to save mankind.
What is true of the first Adam is true of every human being who acts without the fullness of grace. Sin there is; punishment there must be; but the Lord of all will have pity on the unwise. Therefore, we simply say ‘Lord have mercy’.
B, Lent 1 The Antichrist
“he … was tempted by Satan.” Mk 1:12
Corruption optimi pessima. ‘The corruption of the best is the worst form of corruption.’ The capacity for good reveals the capacity for ill.
Love seems to inspire hate; good seems to provoke evil; beauty seems to invite horror. And so the Christ exposes the Antichrist; Satan advances to tempt him to be other than he is. Why this hatred? Why the knowing malevolence? Why the refusal to receive. Why the wish to set oneself up as the source of all? Why reject the truth, and become the deceiver? Why this pride, the wish to humiliate? Here is something not explained, not reasonable, not intelligible. Evil is a puzzle no one can explain.
Faced with the fullness of truth we cannot choose evil. Faced with the beatific vision no other choice is possible.
If Satan chooses to do evil it is because he is ignorant of the highest good. Satan, for all his glitter, lives in illusion. Being unsure, he destabilizes. He makes things to be like himself.
When at last the Light comes he refuses to admit his error. His ego becomes paramount. It is the pride, the first of the stains causing every other stain. It is no longer simple ignorance, but willful ignorance. How this is possible defies all understanding.
The experience of grace reveals the enormity of sin. For that reason Christianity has a heightened sense both of good and of evil. Christ and Antichrist are part and counterpart.
But when the light reaches its full splendour, there is no place for darkness. The refusal is refused. The rejection is rejected. The dark loses all its apparent light. The Antichrist is defeated. His activity only serves to highlight the Light. In the end the Antichrist serves the Christ.
B, Lent 2 Jesus the Man
“There in their presence he was transfigured”. Mk 9:2
Jesus stands on the mountain, the True Man. All gather round him who is the centre of the universe: Moses and Elijah from heaven; Peter and James and John from the earth; the bright cloud of the eternal Spirit and the voice of God proclaiming, “This is my Son”. Jesus is the liṅgam embedded in the earth.
To look at the Man is to become human at last. Only the human can see the Man. Only the transfigured can see the Transfigured. The True Man makes their transfiguration complete. To see the perfect image is to become the image. Jesus is the Perfect Man who initiates those who see him and draws them to his heart and theirs.
B, Lent 2 Jesus the Lamb
“This is my Son, the Beloved. Listen to him.” Mk 9:7
Jesus stands there glorious, light streaming from him. Who else could be ‘the Lamb without blemish’? Only the glorious Jesus has the strength to take on sin and horror, pain and regret. Only the Perfect can be sacrificed to the Perfect. Only the Holy is worthy to be offered to the Holy.
Why should the perfect be destroyed? What reason can be found for the death of the innocent? This question cries out for an answer. But no explanation can be provided. Only the sight is given: Jesus is beauty and horror reconciled. On the holy mountain, light and darkness come together, glory and agony, truth and humiliation. Only the Lamb, both glorious and crucified, can take us to joy beyond joy, splendour beyond splendour. Only then is all resolved.
B, Lent 3 Jesus exorcises
“Making a whip out of some cord, he drove them all out of the Temple.” Jn 2:15
Jesus unleashes his anger and drives the sellers out. Brandishing a whip, he restores the Temple. It is once again to be a house of prayer, no longer a market filled with clatter and dung.
Jesus exorcises the Temple; he will exorcise the whole of humanity. He expels the cattle with a whip; he will purify the human heart with his blood. Once again the knowledge of God will swell the heart, like waters swelling the sea.
Things are restored, but not taken back to the past just as it was. Overwhelming mercy is the response to sin. God showers grace upon grace. The last state is infinitely better than the first. Indeed, the last state was inherent in the first.
Then at last there will be peace; freedom from illusion and ambition. Joy will be found not in the ownership of cattle and pigeons, but in the presence of the One. Poverty will be replaced with simplicity. The den of thieves will give way to the community of friends. When the glory of God appears, we will have found our heart’s desire.
B, Lent 3 Jesus restores
“Destroy this sanctuary and in three days I will raise it up.” Jn 2:19
The splendour of God has faded; the Temple has been profaned; ignorance has triumphed.
But now Jesus, the true priest, comes forward to restore the temple. However, he restores the Temple as a prelude to replacing it. He shows his devotion to the Temple even as he makes it obsolete, for he will substitute it with his self. He will exchange the building of stone with his very own flesh.
Jesus wants, by driving out the beasts, to bring on himself the full fury of the ignorant. He will use their anger to his own purposes, to do things unknown and unseen before. He will bring human kind to a reality and interiority beyond all that had been imagined.
There is no need, therefore, to go to the Temple of Jerusalem; human flesh is now the temple. No need to go on pilgrimage because the fullness of God is found in every place. Jesus’ act of restoration is not a return to some mythic Garden. He restores paradise by taking us beyond paradise. We find the eternal future not ‘above’ or ‘over there’ but in our own selves, now purified and knowing.
This had been the plan from the beginning.
B, Lent 4 Jesus regenerates
“The Son of Man must be lifted up as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” Jn 3:13-15
Sporting heroes capture our imagination. Their natural talent, their dedication, their ability to stand the strain and to give their best – all this is greeted with wholehearted applause. Adults are glad to meet them; youth idolize them. Sporting heroes reveal what human nature is capable of. They define the human race. They are unique and they are everyman.
This is true above all of Jesus, born as one of us and showing our essential nature. He reveals himself in the great contest of the paschal mystery and reveals us to ourselves. He is our deepest self and defines us. He shows us what we are and what we shall be. Already, then, we are made new. He is our saviour.
Jesus redeems us by taking us as we are, turning our error into truth, our sin into grace. He reveals us to ourselves within the sorry condition of our lives, our mistakes that no longer matter. Rather these are turned into the means of grace and become worthwhile. He regenerates not by eliminating the false steps we have taken but by transforming them into the right path. He does not consider the weaknesses of the past but shows the possibilities of the future. The wall we had faced now becomes a door. His redefinition is our regeneration.
B, Lent 4 Jesus redeems
“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” Jn 3:16
God speaks in the person of Jesus. Our world is not entirely corrupt, not wholly damned, not entirely without hope. We are ‘fallen’, ‘cast out of the garden’, disfigured, yes, but still addressed by God, sentenced to live in difficulty but not eternally condemned.
Jesus comes to live for others. He takes part in the wretchedness of human life, in its shortness and brutality. He shares the condition of those who have been punished, and lives in the consequences of their sin.
Jesus also provokes the worst that human nature can do; he challenges the forces of evil to do their utmost. He knows evil such as no one has ever experienced. Indeed, he who is supremely good becomes evil itself. The Word made flesh is made sin. Hanging upon the cross he is cursed and abandoned.
Yet it is precisely by experiencing degradation that Jesus’ inner glory shines out. His disgrace leads to the outpouring of grace. He blesses where he has been cursed. He joins the human race that has been punished for its sin, and turns this punishment to good. Evil has become good. It is the redemption.
The sin of disobedience ceases, therefore, to be an offense against the majesty of God, and becomes an asset. This is God’s doing. By speaking the Word of love to the loveless world God redeems the world. By deciding to shed Jesus’ blood God sets aside his own laws of retaliation. It is only God who can raise the money that will buy back those enslaved to sin. Jesus is the money that God pays to himself. The God who punishes also redeems. He compensates himself by handing over the one who dies for us and for our salvation. It is the divine paradox, the supreme revelation of love.
B, Lent 5 Jesus’ compassion
“Sir, we would like to see Jesus.” Jn 12:22
The Greeks come and tell Philip, “We would like to see Jesus”. They have seen the wonder of Athens and the splendour of the Parthenon, but they want to see more. Indeed, they come to Jesus, sensing that he is the one their eyes really need to see. They want to know the truth. They wish, indeed, to become what they see. The Greeks who seek wisdom will find it the crucified one and in the ignorance and horror of his cross.
Jesus can offer himself to their sight, because he sees the Father and because he knows himself. His sight has not been distracted by illusion or diminished by sin.
So he understands their request. Yes, he wants to be seen. Indeed, he wants the whole world to be free of blindness, to see him and the One who sent him; to see themselves, to see the divine glory in every circumstance and so rejoice forever in what they see.
And so, out of compassion Jesus will enter into his passion. Rather than remain in the divine state or even in the comforts of human life, he will seek the cross. This is ultimate compassion: to come down from heaven, to enter into the human condition and to go deeper yet to where no one else can go. Yet, there is no ‘where’, as though it were a place that exists by itself. Jesus will be the ‘where’. He will be the hell into which he descends. He who is compassion becomes the hell from which the fullness of truth derives.
And so the Word is made flesh and made sin, and we see the glory of his compassion far greater than all the glory of Greece.
B, Lent 5 Jesus’ sacrifice
“I tell you most solemnly, unless a grain of wheat grain falls on the ground and dies, it remains only a single grain; but it if dies, it yields a rich harvest.” Jn 12:24
Jesus, perfect in every way, is chosen and destroyed. The best is taken and given the worst of fates. Life is turned into death. Good is turned into evil. In this way, Jesus comes to know the extremes of good and evil, heaven and hell; and knows the One who is beyond all knowledge. The sacred one must be immolated. Jesus is sacrificed, and sacrifices himself willingly and of his own volition. He is not forced unwillingly by someone else; he is himself priest and victim.
What heroism, what strength of character. Only the divine can act in this way. Only God can be worthily sacrificed to God. Only God can reveal God.
Those who know this power take part in it. They too become priest and victim. Already, in some mysterious way, they know all this is true. He reveals what they have known from the start, for they are created from him and for him and already contain in themselves the qualities he will manifest.
Empowered by such a sight, they will seek to give expression to their nature as priest and victim. They will seek situations in which they can sacrifice themselves for the sake of others. They themselves will come to the knowledge of the One who is beyond all knowledge, and so draw others into this same state. They will worship those who are of like mind. In this way all become a sacrifice, perfecting what is lacking in the passion of the Lord. There will be one sacrifice, one priest.
B, Passion Sunday The cross
“…. when they had finished crucifying him …” Mt 27:35
For almost a thousand years, the cross was used as a form of execution, by Persians, Carthaginians, Egyptians and Romans. Day and night the victims hung on it, exposed to sun and cold, to thirst and to the attacks of dogs. Their bodies collapsed, but their minds remained clear. What a terrible clarity!
Jesus knows he will die this terrible death and accepts it, both fearing it and choosing it, so that he might join the living and the dead.
For three hours he hangs there, his arms stretched out, vulnerable and defenceless, yet victorious. Poised between heaven and earth, he joins heaven and earth; his arms reaching out to all who have known sorrow and joy, failure and triumph. He is the covenant between all, joining all together.
The cross is planted on the earth because it is already planted in heaven; for love is sacrificial. The communing love of Father, Son and Holy Spirit involves triumph and surrender, holding each the other and giving way each to the other, omnipotent and vulnerable. Love transcends both pleasure and pain; it involves both pleasure and pain; it is neither pleasure nor pain as we know them. Sacrifice is required on earth because it is found in heaven. In Jesus’ sacrifice on earth, heaven is seen. The cross is fixed on spires, pointing to heaven where it has always been planted.
B, Passion Sunday The clothing
“Then they stripped him … dressed him in his own clothes … shared out his clothing by casting lots …. wrapped it in a clean shroud …” Mt 27:28, 31, 35, 59
Jesus is brought before Pilate, wearing the clothes of a carpenter. Condemned to death, these clothes are now ripped off, leaving him exposed and defenceless. The soldiers scourge him, covering his skin with terrible marks. The soldiers then dress him in robes that become red with the blood of his injuries. Humiliation and shame are heaped upon him, but he endures it all for he knows his worth, with a conviction that comes from deep within. His own clothes are put back on, and he is taken to his execution. Again he is stripped naked before all who pass by, even as the darkness gathers. He is clothed one last time, but in the shroud of death. He is stripped once more but forever as he abandons the grave clothes and rises in glory.
He has come to that emptiness which is fullness. He has come to the centre of his being and has found everything. Completely naked, he has come to the ultimate truth: his own self. Every covering has been removed, his deepest heart has been exposed and he is found to be of inestimable value.
Here is the treasure hidden in the field, discovered at last.
B, Holy Thursday The blood
“This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.” I Cor 11:25
Jesus is ambitious. He pours out his blood so that his disciples might drink of it and be of one blood with him. He will be the life-blood of the world. His ambition knows no bounds.
The Father writes his statement of love in the ink of Christ’s blood. What an awesome God we worship! The Spirit, after driving Jesus into the wilderness, now drives him to the cross. The Spirit, wishing to receive the proofs of love, delights in his shedding of blood, the greatest and most striking evidence.
From the time of Noah it was forbidden to drink blood. But now it purifies. It is pure beyond all ideas of pure and impure, for it springs from the highest love.
The finest blood has been shed. The deep blood lust of human beings is now sated. So then, let those who thirst for blood drink deeply here, and feel how well their thirst has been slaked. Let there be no more shedding of blood!
Do the disciples shrink back at first? Do they hesitate to drink his blood, for to drink it means accepting to shed their own blood too? Yet this is the path set out for every human being, for by drinking his blood we come into communion with the God of sacrifice.
We receive his blood in communion, but also receive each other’s blood for we are one blood in the Blood. We are blood brothers and sisters. By drinking the blood shed for us we undertake to shed our blood for each other. Indeed, in the fullness of time we will not need fine wines and choicest meats: at the banquet of eternal life we become food and drink for each other.
B, Good Friday The thirst
“I thirst.” Jn 19:28
Jesus cries out “I thirst” even as the blood pours out of his wounds. But his thirst goes far beyond the need for water. He wishes to taste the dregs of the cup presented to him in the garden. He wishes to fulfil all that the scriptures have promised. He wishes to drink deep of all who are given to him, to drink of their faith and their love. He yearns for the Father’s approval and for the refreshing waters of the Spirit. He longs for the joy that goes beyond life and death, beyond thirst and satiation. No one has thirsted so greatly for such beverage.
The soldier’s act of raising the sponge on a hyssop stick – the slender branch used at the Passover Meal – implies that Jesus is the sacrificial lamb. Therefore he cries out in triumph, “It is accomplished”. All is done that needed to be done, all is achieved. Then, from his mouth that had thirsted so much, he breathes forth the Spirit on the world, which had long thirsted for the waters of life.
Jesus thirsts for us and gives his thirst to us. We thirst to be at peace, to fulfil the promise of our lives, to be loved and to find someone to love. We long for eternal repose and everlasting meaning, a joy that knows no bounds. We do not fear to drink of good and evil in this world, but we go beyond them and come to the banquet, which is beyond this creation. There we will thirst for each other and be satisfied. Then we will cry out ‘All is fulfilled’.
B, Easter Vigil One body in Christ
“You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he has risen, he is not here.” Mk 16:6
Jesus, as the eternal Word, projects creation so that it might become his bride. As the Word made flesh, Jesus takes the world to himself so that it might become one body with him. In travelling the roads of Galilee, he gathers his people to himself. In enduring the passion of the cross he joins the company of the living and the dead. From outset, all are to be one in the one Body.
His heart is triumphant for he knows his worth. His look is powerful and penetrating. He convinces this world of its value, for its weaknesses are as nothing compared to its potential. His look is not condemnation but transformation. He looks and transfigures.
Because of his love, all is converted into love. He looks outwards to the waiting world and sees his future self, for all will be remodelled according to his own glorious body. He looks within himself and sees the world in store. The outer and the inner are one Body.
B, Easter Sunday Jesus, victorious
“… he must rise from the dead.” Jn 20:9
Jesus hears the cry of the poor and the pleas of the dead. As Light from Light he sees into the depths of darkness and is angry. Indeed, he is Anger itself, conscious and total; anger at all that hinders humanity; anger at the mysterium iniquitatis. He hates hatred and condemns all condemnation. He despises all despising and rejects all rejection. He recognises nothing of himself in evil and his lack of recognition is damnation. He is victorious.
If Jesus has overcome evil, why does it remain and seem even to increase? Jesus has won the fight, but the establishment of peace takes time. The Christian, having welcomed the Anger of God, becomes the Anger of God, refusing evil, determined to bring justice to the world. Jesus’ great cry of victory is ours also, as we continue his work of peace making.
B, Easter Sunday The empty tomb
“ ‘They have taken the Lord out of the tomb,’ she said ‘and we won’t know where they have put him.’ ” Jn 20:2
Jesus was tested like gold in the fire, and no impurity was found. Evil had held sway, but its victory was only apparent. Jesus lay in the tomb, seemingly overcome, but deeper resources come into play. Death has consigned him to the tomb, but nothing can hold him back. The hidden resources of his being are revealed, and the perfection within him becomes evident. A burst of energy comes from deep within as from heaven above, overwhelming his opponents and their destructive might. This explosion of glory takes him beyond all limitation. He rises from the dead.
Pure in every respect, he is raised in every way. His glorification touches his body and his soul, his past and his future. He disappears from the tomb and fills the universe. He is absent from the sepulchre and present everywhere.
The empty tomb is a sign that he is indeed the holocaust, the whole burnt offering. Nothing is left, no remainder, no residue that would indicate some impurity. He is wholly of God, wholly for God, wholly for us. The empty chamber is a sign and a promise. With him we too are raised from the dead.
B, Easter 2 Jesus descends into hell
“He showed them his hands and his side.” Jn 20:20
Jesus appears to his disciples in the upper room and shows them his hands and his side. They are amazed at him who has joined all who have died: from the first to have lived, Adam and Eve, to the last who will ever die. He has united himself with those who knew the gas chambers and the torture cells, who have died in war and who slipped quietly away in sleep; those who perished of hunger or died in comfort. The disciples were weak and could not stay awake one hour, but Jesus had the strength to enter into the agony of all mankind. Because he has the innocence of God, he can experience the pain of all. Because he is pure, he can endure the horror of being sin. Only God can go to hell.
Jesus descended into hell and enters all our hells. Therefore we are not alone. We are consoled since we know that victory has been won, for Jesus rises from the dead and greets his disciples. He breathes forth the Spirit; he breathes that Life which comes from beyond life and death. Even in death we know life, even in our hell we have a taste of heaven, for he is there.
B, Easter 2 Jesus, the victim
“Put your finger here, look, here are my hands. Give me your hand, put it into my side.” Jn 20:27
Jesus has become incarnate in the world and in him God vents his anger against the whole world. Jesus also experiences the anger of this world against God. In Jesus the two angers collide: God’s anger at the world for its heartlessness; and the world’s anger at the omnipotent God. Jesus is the victim of the two-fold anger and is the reconciliation of both.
As Jesus shows his wounds, he reveals the suffering he has endured. But he also shows that he chose it. He wanted to be united with all who have been condemned, whether justly or unjustly. He wanted his own body to be the solution to the distress of heaven and earth. He is glad to be the victim, so as to be the source of blessing. He reconciles all things by the immensity of his patience, and turns dissonance into the most admirable harmony. He is the Peace.
B, Easter 3 Witness
“You are witnesses to this.” Lk 24:48
The people see beyond verbal skills of the priest to where the heart lies. They perceive what he has experienced, the insight he has achieved, the gift of grace in him. St John Vianney did not have the gift of eloquence, but thousands came to listen to him preach poorly and to hear his words of forgiveness. He gave witness
What vitality moves in you? What illumination has come to you? What has touched you deeply? What are the peak moments in your life? What resurrection have you known? For therein lies the authentic self.
The deepest reality we touch is always the risen Lord who showed himself to his disciples and invited them to touch him. Jesus appears to each of us as well and lets us touch him. What has touched you deeply, in soul and spirit? What has stirred your heart?
Jesus witnesses before Pontius Pilate: witnesses to himself and witnesses to the One who sent him. Christians in turn witness to the risen Christ, but each one differently. As you look at the Paschal Mystery, what do you see? For that is your real self. You witness to your real self as you witness to Christ who witnesses to the Father. It is all the one witness. You see your self, your Christ-self that is the Self of God, all one Self.
B, Easter 3 Theology
“He then opened their minds to understand …” Lk 24:45
Novels are intriguing and poems delight, but finally they pall. The mystery of Christ is endlessly fascinating, for it involves heaven and earth, time and eternity, sin and grace, good and evil, the created and the uncreated.
The theological libraries around Melbourne contain rows of shelving, thousand of books. Countless books have been written on the mystery of Christ, but there is no end to the thoughts and reflections, to the questions and answers, because Jesus is inexhaustible.
The Spirit inspires faith, which is “the knowledge of things unseen”. The Spirit also inspires the faithful to understand what they already know. The Spirit shows things past and future, and recall all that Jesus has done. The same Spirit leads to an ever-fuller assent of mind and will. Thus faith leads to knowledge that in turn leads to greater faith. As our understanding increases, our faith deepens. We see more and clearly what we have known from the beginning, for the presence of Christ is there since the foundation of the world.
By means of theology, we are delighted at last to understand. We come to the knowledge of the incomprehensible God. We are unendingly amazed.
B, Easter 4 Jesus, the martyr
“I lay down my life for my sheep.” Jn 10:15
Martyrs are listed first among saints, for they give witness to the first of martyrs, you, Jesus, who did not refuse to die for the One who sent you. You were tested to the end, and not found wanting. Only the fully divine could be totally dehumanized. Only the completely pure could turn evil into good. You are the Truth and gave witness to your truth.
Fully aware of your pain, you transcended it. The good of Good Friday is that you died for others. Your pain is beneficial. You shed your blood to the last drop so that nothing is left. And your offering is complete; the tomb is empty.
It was only in enduring the test of martyrdom that you could show of what you were made. Your truth stands revealed in all its brilliance. The world is saved because divine love has been revealed. Its past and future are totally refashioned because you, loving saviour, have come among us.
All who are on the side of truth listen to your voice and they too give witness by their blood. There is the public martyrdom, which stuns. There is also the martyrdom of everyday life when blood is poured out in slow drops day by day, in the fulfilment of responsibilities.
As people gather to listen to the eulogy at a funeral they hear of martyrdom: namely for whom and for what did he deceased most typically pour out their lives. The purpose of their life, the purpose of their death: that is their witness.
Pilate asks, “Truth, what is that?” He cannot perceive your witness, your martyrdom, Lord Jesus, even as you stand before him. It is ever the same, when the witnessing is faced with complete incomprehension. But God knows all things.
B, Easter 4 Jesus, the oblation
“The Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.” Jn 10:17
Jesus joins himself to creation as to his bride. He takes her to himself and together they are the offering made to the One from whom all comes. All is given and all is received.
Involvement with the world does not mean separation from God. On the contrary, it is possible to be united to God only by receiving the whole of creation in the most intimate of unions.
Thus, all sexual union, when done fully, is an oblation to God. Wedding and offering involve each other. Both enhance each other. Oblation is possible because wedding is taking place; wedding can take place because there will be oblation.
The process of coupling is a process also of uniting with God; and union with God involves entering into a spousal relationship with creation. It is vibration.
Oblation is made not only in the pain of sacrifice but also in the joy of intercourse. In his sacrifice, Jesus knows the full delight of union. Jesus, offered on the cross, is the bridegroom of all creation.
B, Easter 5 Solidarity
“I am the vine, you are the branches.” Jn 15:5
The members of the Church share the same faith, they identify with each other, and together they constitute the Christ who is not apart from his members any more than a vine is apart from its branches.
In every Christian all Christians are found; and in all the Christians the one Christ is present and the one God is seen. Yet there is diversity, as each has a different aspect. Christians define each other and encourage each other; they challenge and justify each other. They live together and share the one life coming from the one Christ who holds them all together, identified with each and all. The interplay is complex and ecological. Each consists of the other. Each can be found in the other. Each is for the other. Each is identified with the other. Pruning only gives more vitality to the vine. So if the Church is persecuted in one area, vitality soars in all areas. The solidarity is astounding.
B, Easter 5 Recreation
“Every branch in me … that does bear fruit, he prunes to make it bear more fruit.” Jn 15:2
The harvest has been good, yet the vinedresser prunes the branches that have been so fruitful. Should he not look forward to an equally good result next season? Yet he prunes, this year like every year.
These are consoling words for evil does come to every person; every family experiences loss. There is the sorrow at the pain, and incomprehension. Is God who does such things evil or powerless? Is he untrustworthy, unbelievable?
And yet it is good that this is so. “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” For then the sap rises. The living vine shows its vitality. The branches grow again; the vine is restored, and indeed gives an even more abundant harvest. Only by the dying can there be the rising. It is the interplay of life and death, good and evil, at the hands of the One who is beyond good and evil, who brings about good and evil.
So it is in the case of Christ, they put him to death yet he rises and his resurrection produces a greater harvest than the years of his public life. His teachings had revealed, but his rising is salvation.
Each follower must experience the same. Christ dies again when his followers suffer. In him they are recreated and regenerated. The hard times are the hand of God at work and we know that the vitality in us will triumph.
This vitality is the proof of Christ’s resurrection. Indeed, the Christian seeks to know the darkness. He seeks poverty. He seeks to be obscure. And then the light and the wealth and the truth come as an overwhelming grace. It is the new creation.
B, Easter 6 Friendship
“I call you friends because I have made known to you everything I have learned from my Father.” Jn 15:15
Mates are loyal to each other and stand in solidarity as they work at the common task. When times change, however, they go their separate ways, for they are just mates. But friends share the same hope and interests, the same knowledge and mind. They are like each other and appreciate each other. At the Last Supper, Jesus calls his disciples “friends” because he has shared his knowledge with them. But he overwhelmingly speaks of love. He wants more than friendship; he wants love. He does not want to be just like to like with his disciples, but seeks to be ‘same to same’. He wants so to be of one mind, one heart, one substance, one being with those he loves. This is love: no longer to be oneself but to be the one whom one loves; no longer two, but one. This is the ecstasy. Mates support each other, friends share, but only love identifies.
Devotion, for its part, is a yearning, and seeks to bridge a gap, but once the goal is reached, the yearning disappears.
The lovers proceed from each other in the vibration of their relationship. They give up their lives for each other. They proceed from each other and are received into each other as one vibrant reality. It is the mutual surrender, the mutual projection, the one mind and state. Only by becoming nothing can a person become everything. The nothing is everything.
B, Easter 6 Fidelity
“If you keep my commands you will remain in my love just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love.” Jn 15:10
What confidence, what self-assertion! Jesus has no hesitation in stating that he has kept his Father’s commands. He is judge of all and the righteous judge of himself. He has faith in himself, just as he has faith in the One who sent him. It is the supreme confidence of the self-evident Truth. He knows. He knows that he remains in his Father’s love. His conscience is clear. He senses the Father’s love in his every moment, even as he goes to his cross. God is loving him in his death.
Jesus has been commanded and he has obeyed. Therefore he has the right to command others. His relationship with the One who commands him is the basis of his relationship with the ones he commands. The one reflects the other.
He will be faithful to the unfaithful and true to the untrue. He will remain committed to his disciples even as they betray him.
Yet his love is conditional as well: ‘if you keep my commands’. He is no fool. His command is to love. Those who love will remain in his love. Whatever is not of love will be abandoned, rejected, and burnt away in the fire of love. What is not love does not remain. “Nothing impure will stay.” Love alone lasts.
His disciples have faith in him. They do not understand the command or know its implications. But they sense its truth. They accept it but do not know where it will lead. They will go into darkness, into the true knowledge, which exceeds all knowledge. They will eventually come to know how to love. Love teaches how to love. They will remain in Jesus love who remains in the Father’s love and so they will know that all is Love.
B, Ascension Jesus withdraws
“And so the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven.” Mk 16:19
The first forms of life arose in the primeval ocean and spread to the land. Plants grew, animals evolved and human beings walked upright on the earth, a high point of evolution. But evolution is not finished. It becomes ascension. Jesus is the spearhead of this evolution as he rises to the right hand of God. With him humanity reaches into the heavens.
He ascends to heaven and withdraws from the earth; and the disciples are afraid. How will they survive without him who is their rock? Jesus does not cease to be physical; he only eases to be measurable. He only ceases to be visible and tangible, located and time-bound. His withdrawal is not an absence but fullness of presence. He rises from the earth; he fills the universe. The voice once heard in the villages of Galilee now resounds to the ends of the cosmos.
His withdrawal unleashes forces that cannot be perceived by the minds, just as the brightness of the sun cannot be viewed by the human eye, or the brilliance of reason be perceived by plants. All the human faculties are brought to their pitch of development and at last “in our flesh we shall look on God”.
B, Ascension Jesus abides
“And so the Lord Jesus, was taken up into heaven; there at the right and of God he took his place.” Mk 16:19-20
What if Jesus had chosen to stay on after his resurrection, immortal yet local? Would we go on pilgrimage to him who once died and could no longer die? Would he not, in fact, be taken captive again and again; would he not have to hide? Faith would be based on the marvellous rather than on the true, on things seen rather than unseen.
Jesus must leave time and place if he is to be in every place. He departs because he wishes to abide. He ascends because he wants to come to everyone, living and dead.
There is, therefore, no need to go on pilgrimage. Jesus is in no single place because he makes his home everywhere. He has become supremely subtle, so that his eye can enter every eye, his heart into every heart. In particular he joins his feet to his disciples’ feet, his mind to theirs, his spirit to theirs. So the disciple is double, both truly himself and truly his master. To see one is to see the other. To hear one is to be taught by the other. There is no separation but rather identity, the disciple abiding in her master, the master abiding in his disciple in an intimacy made possible only by death and resurrection.
So in turn the disciples learn to abide in the heart of all, in friend and foe alike, communicating their truth to all, calling all to themselves. The disciples abide in each other, of one mind and one heart, forming one body together. They are present to each other without masks or barriers because Jesus is present always and in every way. Because he abides everywhere, Christianity will spread as far as Jesus abides, in every galaxy.
B, Pentecost Wisdom
“And something appeared that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them.” Acts 2:3
The one flame descends and spreads as a garland of fire over the disciples. It is the enlightenment, exceeding the data of science and the reasonings of philosophy. It is the knowledge of things unseen, the knowledge beyond all knowledge.
All understanding springs from this Wisdom and leads back to it, for whenever people come to their moment of truth; they come to that Wisdom that lies at the source of all truth. All realizations are windows onto that ultimate Consciousness.
This Wisdom guides the movements of the Word. Wisdom decides when the Word will be fruitful. From the mighty storehouse of the Word, Wisdom draws the message that must be proclaimed, the work that must be done. The Spirit of God knows the purposes of God and the Word is creative. Wisdom and Word and the Mind of God are one.
The disciples empty their minds of every thought about times and seasons. They sit in silence and wait. Then at the time of Wisdom’s choosing, She comes and gives birth to the Church, which begins its task of preaching, and the earth is filled with the resonances of the Word.
No one disciple reserves all Wisdom to himself; all have the same Wisdom differently. Although Peter proclaims the truth on Pentecost Sunday, he proclaims what all have known. He declares the Wisdom which all have received together and severally. He discerns the one Wisdom within all the teachings of the Law and Prophets: Jesus is Lord and Christ.
B, Pentecost Charisms
“There is a variety of gifts, but always the same Spirit. There are all sorts of service to be done but always to the same Lord.” I Cor 12:4-5.
To the Christ, disfigured and cold in the tomb, the Glory of God shines, raising him to life such as he had not known before. No longer lifeless but Life itself, he fills the whole universe, blessing every time and place.
The Christ is filled by the Spirit who could not refuse Herself to the one who died for all. She arouses him in a way he had never known. Likewise, She comes to all who commit themselves to others. She gives them a measure of life unimagined, a capacity without bounds, an energy that surprises them.
The Spirit’s gifts are in keeping with the character of the recipients, with the inspirations they have followed, with the choices that have been made. All of them stand in relationship with each other, so that there is one body, all together inspired by the one Spirit.
All the charisms are in response to the needs of the Church and of humanity. They are signs of need and they fulfil that need; they are of essential value. But they can be misunderstood or not appreciated, refused or suppressed. The gifts of one person may be used to thwart the gifts of another. And the Spirit weeps.
The flashing forth is eternal, for the gifts of one inspire gifts in the other. It is the radiance of the divine furnace, swirling and emitting new flames, sparkling with endlessly varied lights, ever surprising in unexpected and fantastic ways.
B, Trinity Sunday The Begetting
“In the name of the Father and of the Son …” Mt 28:19.
Our minds implode at the thought of the One who is, rather than is not. The mind collapses at the idea that there is Being rather than non-being, knowledge rather than absolute ignorance.
There is indeed Knowledge with no particularity, no shadow, no fear, no limitation, no doubt. It is pure Awareness, with no striving for knowledge, no seeking, but simple calm.
Knowledge is expressed in Self-knowledge. The knowledge of the Self is a Self. The Subject knows himself in a Subject, who is not less than the knowing Subject. The Knower and the Known are one.
This Knowing occurs without effort. It springs simply from knowledge. It is the perfect illumination, without change, in perfect tranquility. It is total, not partial or selective. It is Consciousness and the Consciousness of Consciousness.
The Known is derived from the Knower, so there is a certain direction. It is not mutual.
We share in this consciousness. We can know that state since it is the very basis of our being, but we experience it in part and express it in analogy. Therefore we let ourselves, somehow, move into simple awareness and come to the divine state.
B, Trinity Sunday The Sonship of Jesus
“In the name of the Father and of the Son’” Mt 2:19.
Jesus wishes to experience the extremes of good and evil, sin and grace, heaven and hell, the whole range of possibilities. He can do so because can fearlessly look on everything. He does not blink. Only the pure can know the impure. Only perfect clarity can see into the depths of darkness.
What he knows he brings into being. He becomes what he knows. He knows what he becomes. He can know it fully because he is it already. His knowledge is an incarnation. Inner and the outer coincide.
By knowing both life and death, by being reduced to nothing, he comes to fullness of knowledge. His ignorance, his annihilation is a sacrifice, and from it spring blessings of every kind.
He looks in time and he looks from eternity. He is able to look and his look loves. His look saves and encourages; it blesses and brings froth things hidden since the foundation of the world. It is a knowing look, understanding and affirming, bringing to fullness of life, resurrecting.
He can know in this way because he is known, and he knows he is known. And his knowledge of us brings us to the One who knows him.
Therefore we let ourselves be known by him. We assent to his knowing look, which is a look of mastery and compassion, of truth and love.
B, Corpus Christi “Do this in memory of me”
“Take it ….” Mk 14:22.
At Pentecost the sound of a mighty wind enveloped the house: sound and wind, Word and Spirit. Likewise, Sound and Wind, coming as one, surround the gathering at Eucharist and touch their soul. The words of the Gospel move hearts sensitized by the Spirit; the Spirit makes the words audible. The Spirit hears again the words of love and so the hearer hears. The Word of love is said again to the Spirit of love.
The preacher becomes the Word he speaks; he communicates the Spirit who inspires him. The speaker takes the disciples to himself and they become one Word, one Spirit together. His words belong to his disciples and his heart penetrates the disciples’ heart. There is communication and communion, with speaker and hearers united as one.
All are taken back to the Master from whom the tradition arises, back to that supreme manifestation of Word and Spirit, when the Word bore with it the full outpouring of the Spirit; back to that moment when all was reconciled: good and evil, sin and grace, heaven and hell, beauty and horror, time and eternity, compassion and redemption, truth and error; back to the Paschal Mystery. All come together at this supreme moment.
The disciples are overwhelmed by the revelation of supreme love, and dwell in that moment of time when heaven and earth stood still. They course upstream to its source. They come to the sacred Triduum, which gathers all time together. They remember, not something past, but something eternally present. They relive it and become alive in it.
Therefore they take food and drink, and recall the great event of salvation, which they have become. It is the anamnesis, the ‘memory’. Their memory is powerful because of the Word and Spirit, which dwell in them. They are one with the Lord; they form one body with him, identified with him who draws them to himself. They are all he is. They recall his Last Supper and his final gesture. Being one with the Body they take the bread that becomes his body, their body, and they share it. Being of one Blood with him, they take wine and share his blood, their blood. They express what they are. They are indeed the Paschal mystery.
B, Corpus Christi maranatha, ‘Come Lord Jesus’
“Until the day …” Mk 14:25.
Jesus will drink no more wine until he drinks the new wine in the kingdom of heaven. He will drink no more wine so that the new wine might come. He will give up everything, life itself, all knowledge, all comfort; all his friends will be taken from him. Even God will seem to abandon him. It is so that the new wine might come. He wishes to drink the dregs so that the fine strained wine might be shared, so that good will come and every blessing. ‘Until the day’ is not just a timetable. It is always true; it is a statement about the eternal coming.
Let this happen, Lord Jesus! Let the wine be served. Come Lord Jesus, come through this bread and wine; be present in these elements, in this act; be in me your priest, be me; be us; be this whole act. United with you, we are you.
By doing this in memory of you we become you and so you have returned in us, and we are returned in you. We perform this act in memory of you but it is you who are performing this act. You are in us; you are us, because we do this, because you do this in us. We are expressions of you who are Lord and who do all things. We are glad to be simply you.
We simply dissolve into you, returned into you from whom we come. You act in us; you become the one who is truly here. You have come!
B, Baptism of the Lord The Gospel
“No sooner had he come up out of the water …” Mk 1:10
Jesus rises up from the water and begins his mission. He brings good news; he is good news. He is what he says. His message and his self are one. He speaks things new and reveals things old. In him old and new coincide. He is news about what has happened and what will happen, about past and future. He speaks about himself and he speaks about his hearers, for he and his hearers are one. The Word is proclaimed to those who are the Word.
In turn, he sends his disciples. The disciples are to bear good news and to be good news. The messengers and the message are one.
To hear good news is to become good news. To be good news means speaking good news. When the heart is one with the Heart, words pour out. Is the Christian good news to the listener, the ultimate good news, and therefore saviour for the listener? Is the Christian’s news always new, always renewed and renewing? Or is the preacher bad news, corrupting the good and making it bad?
What blessing there is to be the good news, to be the expression of the Inexpressible!
Who gives rise to the Word? Is it the Father who speaks, or the Spirit who listens? Is it the master who speaks, or the disciple who sits at his feet drawing the words from his mouth? The Spirit inhabits the disciple; in the disciple the Spirit listens to the Word. The Spirit enables the disciple to understand, to receive into the ear, into the body, right into the world in which the disciple lives, so that Jesus returns in the disciple who turns to him. There is an interplay between speaker and listener. All is one in the Word.
B, Baptism of the Lord Jesus empties himself
“He was baptized in the water” Mk 1:9
Jesus enters the muddy waters of the Jordan, as though dissolved and returned to the primal elements. The one who is beyond all form now sinks into the formless mud. It is the dissolution.
He does so out of compassion, so as to join all who have been dismembered. He does so out of love; he does so out of play. He does so in order to do “things improbable and impossible”: the Light draws the veil over his glory, the divine Wisdom becomes folly. He empties himself, becoming the opposite of what he is.
He also knows fear and terror. The “strong and immortal one” wishes to know fragility and vulnerability. Being universal, he wishes to be fragmented. He forgets his divine state and feels utter desolation. Being all, he wishes to be nothing. He wishes to be ‘torn open’ in order that the inner mystery of his being might be revealed. Only the strong can afford to be weak.
But his true nature asserts itself, for his being is greater than the forces ranged against it. His abandonment is his sending. He can say to the lost ‘you are my very self’. He empties himself for those who have nothing and together they become all.
B, Sunday 2 The attractiveness of Jesus
“Come and see.” Jn 1:39
The disciples hear John the Baptist cry out, “There is the Lamb of God”. (Jn 1:29) They follow Jesus, curious to see what sort of man he is. He turns and invites them to come and see where he lives, not just in what house but where he truly lives, in what space, in what heart. They go and enter a world, which amazes them. They have discovered their Master. They have found the hope of Israel. They have entered the sanctuary and seen heaven itself.
Jesus is attractive, for he reveals God to them and reveals them to themselves. He takes them to himself and to their future. He is attractive to them and makes them attractive to themselves. They see who he is and who are they. They see that he and they have the one destiny. He invites them to himself and to where he lives, the dwelling place of the Most High. He invites them to each other, forming one reality together, no longer separated and alone, cut off and disjointed, but one in themselves and one with all. Having discovered the supreme good, they feel good about themselves. They approve of themselves because he approves of them.
Jesus and his disciples are complementary to each other. They are necessary to him as he is necessary to them. The shepherd needs his sheep to become what he is destined to be. At last the disciples know they are of use, indeed supremely valuable.
He brings out the best in them. They discover talents and possibilities they had never imagined. He gives them an experience for which they had never hoped. They exist because they have come in contact with the One who is. It is a moment of realization where they become real.
They in turn will be able to say to others, ‘Come and see’ where the Church dwells, the sanctuary where God dwells. Only by dwelling more and more in him who is supremely attractive will the Church be attractive at last.
B, Sunday 2 Jesus manifests himself
“Jesus passed” Jn 1:35
Jesus walks by without drawing attention to himself. John the Baptist, however, to whom the Word came in the desert, recognizes him. With the eye of the Spirit John sees the Word. With the ear of the Spirit he hears the Word. Therefore he proclaims that Jesus is “the Lamb of God” (Jn 1:36).
Jesus walks by quite naturally because he is perfectly natural, the human being perfectly restored. He walks along the path, coming from heaven so as to live on earth. He has come out of the hidden place of Nazareth into the glare of his public life. He wishes to be seen so that those who really see him might become wholly transformed in body and mind, emotion and spirit. He wishes to be known as the Holy One of God so that they might know themselves as holy.
Jesus walks by in all simplicity, without swagger and without fear. The magnificence of his character is evident to John who already knows the Word of God from within and now sees the Word of God in flesh. Jesus does not mask himself or impose himself. He shows himself to others because he is evident to himself. He believes in himself and presents himself as worthy of belief, so that all might come to faith in him and in the God who sent him.
The two disciples ask him where he lives? He invites them to come and see, to see deeply, beyond the surface, to see him as he sees himself. He wants them to see themselves as he sees them. He comes out of obscurity so that they might discover their hidden self. He does not pretend to be other than he is, and invites them to be themselves. The disciples who see the Christ are able to see him because already they are the Christ. Like sees like; same manifests the same. He transfigures those who see him. To see the Holy is to become Holy.
He manifests himself so that in him they might see the Holy One before whom the angels mask their faces. He wants to show God to them so that they might become God to him. He wishes them to acknowledge him so that he might worship them. They become the Christ and show this Christ to the world. There is one Christ, One God.
B, Sunday 3 Intimacy
“Follow me.” Mk 1:17
Jesus calls his disciples. He does not say, “Leave for a country I will show you” but “Follow me”. He does not say, “follow the angel”, as God commanded the Israelites in the desert. He does not command, like Moses, that they should follow the injunctions. Rather, he says “Follow me, come with me, be with me, know what I know, have my mind and my heart, follow me with your every faculty and in every aspect of your being. Let us share the one destiny and the one inheritance. Follow me and become one with me, one reality, one being.”
No one has ever before said such words. None of the great religious leaders has ever said such a thing. They speak the truth, indeed, but cannot call to the same intimacy, for Jesus speaks himself. He calls to closeness: ‘abide with me, experience crucifixion with me, rise from the dead with me, ascend into heaven with me and return on the clouds of heaven with me’.
All can follow him because he has come to live with all. He can truly say to all ‘follow’ because he has entered into the heart of all. He becomes of one body, one mind, one spirit with all because he has no fear of intimacy. Here is someone capable of the greatest intimacy. All can follow him because he has come to dwell with all.
Yet there is a distance also. There is no walking side by side, in presumption, for he leads the way. There is no overtaking or controlling. He leads us where we most truly wish to go, to our goal and destiny. This intimacy gives us an energy that is unsurpassable. We may be weakened by our loneliness, but when his heart comes to dwell within our heart, we burst with energy and become what we are meant to be.
B, Sunday 3 Champion
“Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”. Mk 1:18
They are fishermen of Galilee; but he is the fisherman from above. They have made their catch in time but he has caught them for eternity. Jesus is the fisher-king.
They do not cease to be fishermen but they cease to be fishermen in a limited way, repetitive and boring. They become fishermen, outstandingly. He has surpassed them and shows them how to surpass themselves. From now on they will catch not fish anymore but the whole people of God.
He enables each person to be themselves. He is the universal Lord and makes all others universal. He is the energizing force and the inspiration. He fulfills our destiny beyond what we could possibly imagine.
‘Follow me’, he says. He is the one whom all can follow, whatever their character or vocation. He is the one who can make all be what they wish to be. All dreams are fulfilled, all ideals and hopes, for he is our hope. He fulfills the best insights, for he has all knowledge. As champion he wins the race in such a way that it is I who win the race. He is reinterpreted in me. He becomes who I am and so I become who he is.
Thus among Buddhists, Jesus is the supreme Buddhist. Among Hindus, Jesus is the Hindu, supremely so. To follow the Buddha means becoming both Buddha and Jesus. He is the supreme fisherman; he is also the supreme Muslim.
The disciples see full well that he has caught them; they leave all and follow him.
B, Sunday 4 Jesus speaks with authority
“And his teaching made a deep impression on them because, unlike the scribes, he taught them with authority.” Mk 1:22
Jesus speaks of himself and from himself. He knows what he says and he says what he knows. He does not depend on authorities, for he himself is his own authority. Unlike the scribes who quote opinions and hesitate between them, he settles the confusion and provides the answer. He has no need for support or confirmation; he does not doubt or vacillate. He does not express an opinion; he does not give proofs. He speaks from experience and knowledge. He knows the power of his words, knowing they can make or break. He knows his words are saving knowledge, at once commanding and liberating. And he knows that the time for his words has come. He knows their truth and appropriateness. He speaks in peace.
This because he is the author of the world that is, and of the world that will be. He knows that all is from him and for him. This is because he is with God who is with him even as he speaks, for they have one heart. The mind of God is his own mind, and he speaks with the inspiration of the Spirit.
Even in Galilee Jesus speaks from the cross. His words have already been tested by his foreknowledge of martyrdom. He is ready to die for his words and knows that they will bring life to all who hear them. His knowledge comes from beyond life and death.
Above all Jesus speaks out of love for his listeners. He is one of them and speaks to his own; he speaks to his own self as he speaks to them. His words have the authority of love.
B, Sunday 4 Jesus casts out the demons
“Be quiet! Come out of him.” Mk 2:25
The Word, who comes out of Silence and leads into Silence, commands the demon to be silent. For the Word, who is the fullness of expression, is essentially still and at peace, leading to that quiet where the heart at last finds rest.
The incarnate Word commands that the noise, the chatter, the incoherence and confusion, the disquiet and unresolved issues, all the conflicting emotions, the doubts and fears, the dislocation and dissipation, should cease their chatter and come out of the man.
And yet the exorcism can be painful, for we may be attached to our disquiet, and love our pain, and feel a loss when confusion is removed from us, and when our cravings cease.
One day Jesus will be quiet, totally quiet, in the tomb when all the torment of sin has been laid to rest. Even in Galilee he speaks by the power of that future darkness of the Great Sabbath.
The man possessed can hear the calming Word only if already in him the Spirit has begun to listen. For the Spirit is the One who supremely listens. The Spirit hears the Word of love and listens to it eternally in one great act of hearing. The Spirit makes the man able to heed the command ‘Be quiet’. The Spirit makes the Word fruitful and effective.
We too can hear the Word if first we have been inspired by the Spirit who acts subtly, gently, hiddenly, falling like gentle rain upon the earth. Then only can we hear the Word addressing us powerfully, ‘Be quiet! Come out’. Then and only then will the words resound in us and have their effect. Only then will all the doubts disappear like a morning cloud. We will move into the Silence of God, and in turn, from us, a silence will spread to calm the earth. From us the same Spirit will come, and the same Word leading to the utter Silence of God.
B, Sunday 5 Jesus cures the sick
“He went to her, took her by the hand and helped her up. And the fever left her and she began to wait on them.” Mk 1:31
Jesus comes to this earth so that he might take us by the hand. He dwells amongst us so that he might lift us up. He comes bodily so that he might restore us bodily, so that we might become truly flesh, our bodies whole and entire, restored and able to function beyond all imagining.
With his body he cures our bodies; with his mind he cures our minds. His emotions give stability and intensity to our emotions; above all, he imparts his Spirit to our spirits.
Jesus is medicine to the human race. He is the doctor who cures with immense ease, effortlessly, because his power to cure has the simplicity of omnipotence.
He comes first of all to the mother of Simon Peter, the first of the apostles. He says nothing, commands nothing; he just takes her by the hand, and she is cured. She waits on him as her Lord, as later Peter will acknowledge him as the Christ.
It is from his divinity that his body can heal our bodies. We let him work his magic. We feel his healing hand; we welcome his mind healing our memories, his heart binding up the broken heart. He enables us to serve. His perfect body perfects us, and we in turn become divine. It is not just restoration to a former state but elevation to an unimagined state. The God-man makes us man-God.
B, Sunday 5 Jesus’ popularity
“Everybody is looking for you.” Mk 1:37
They look for Jesus. They are puzzled, rapt, and wondering. They see him who is entirely whole and true, good and beautiful. In him they see all that the human being can be and will be. They see in him the fulfillment of the promises made to Israel; they see the face of God.
All look for him because he is looking for them. Again and again they wish to see him, and to be transformed by the sight. By seeing him they are initiated into him, becoming what they see. Because they see him they can look at each other and become each other.
Therefore he is popular, not just for a time only. He is not just fashionable. He will always be popular because he shows the essence of what it is to be human. He appeals to all peoples. Wherever people look they will find him, since he is incarnate in every time and place. All find themselves in him. In him they are free.
So too for ourselves, we do not seek a passing popularity. We seek to be true to ourselves and to others. We wish to see others and to let ourselves be seen, with nothing hidden, nothing concealed, without masks, without pretence, not frightened of being seen in our strength as in our weakness. This is because the one who inhabits us let himself be seen on the cross in all his frailty and is seen everywhere in his resurrection.
B, Sunday 6 Jesus cures with a touch
“Jesus stretched his hand and touched him. ‘O course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured.” Mk 1:41-42
The leper can no longer feel with his hand but he is not insensitive to the Spirit. He has been touched by the finger of God and so kneels down and cries out in faith, “If you want to, you can heal me.” He is sensitive to Jesus’ sensitivity. By his detachment from all that is limited, Jesus becomes sensitive to all. By his identity with the One who is, he is connected to all that is. He is in touch with God and all humanity.
Fearlessly Jesus lets himself be approached by the leper whom all others shun; and replies, “Of course I want to, be cured”, and it is done: the leper is cleansed.
The leprous mind is desensitized. It is tied to possession and relies on what the hand can touch. It is unaware of its ailment, just as a physical leper is at first unaware of the disease.
Spiritual leprosy is worse even than mental leprosy, for it means losing touch with the divine nature and its limitless possibilities.
Jesus comes to cure every ailment, to bring all to their senses and to acquire at last the sensitivity of the mind of God.
B, Sunday 6 Clean and unclean
“… Jesus could not longer go openly into any town, but had to stay outside in places where nobody lived.” Mk 1:45
The leper disobeys the injunctions of the Torah, but Jesus is unafraid. The categories of ‘clean’ and ‘unclean’ mean nothing to him. Indeed, because he is pure he is unconcerned that the man is unclean. Because he is close to God he comes close to the outcast. He cures the incurable; he loves the unlovable; he gives hope to the hopeless.
Jesus upholds the prescriptions of the Torah and commands the leper to show himself to priests as “as evidence of recovery”. The man must conform to the requirements of the times but no importance is to be attached to them. Jesus himself is the important one and his compassion is what counts.
Because he acts in this way, Jesus is excluded. It is he who can “no longer go openly into any town” and must “stay …. in places where nobody lived”. He has changed places with the leper. Indeed, he will be cast out of the Holy City, considered unclean, offensive to God and man alike. Those who oppose clean and unclean have no place for Jesus to whom all is agreeable. In touching the leper he accepts his future crucifixion.
The clean does not fear the unclean. To the mind that is clear and detached nothing is repulsive. There is neither aversion nor craving, neither division nor separation, neither narrowness of heart nor inhibition. To the enlightened mind all is light. To the pure all things are pure.
B, Sunday 7 Jesus heals body, mind, spirit
“My child, your sins are forgiven.” Mk 2:5
What sins? His personal sins: relationships broken, opportunities missed, words turned into lies. What sins? The sins of the society in which he lives, the inherited sins of his family, the long chain of sins stretching back to the first sinner on the earth. All have paralyzed him.
Yet the worst paralysis is being taken away. The power of faith has begun to move in him. His faith and the faith of those who carry him have begun to free him. He can hear the powerful words because already the Spirit has opened his ears. His whole body relaxes, loosing its frozen state. He can hear and have his sins forgiven. He becomes whole again.
Jesus speaks with simplicity and with power. He does not enquire about the man’s personal sins, or about his inherited sins. He doesn’t ask about his virtue but sees his faith. He knows that the Holy Spirit has inspired the man’s spirit, and so Jesus can say ‘Your sins are forgiven; be whole; be strong be active again.’
It requires great strength of character to forgive sin. It is much easier to leave others in their sin, and even to be glad that they are burdened by sin. To forgive requires the strength of the Word and the power of the Spirit.
One day, at the fulfillment of time, all will say to all: ‘your sins are forgiven’.
B, Sunday 7 Jesus heals by using the illness
“I order you, pick up your stretcher and go off home.” Mk 2:12
Jesus changes things. The man was lowered through the ceiling on a stretcher, and now he walks out through the door carrying the stretcher. The sign of his illness is now the sign of his healing. The imprisoning bed becomes a trophy.
Jesus’ voice is commanding, clear and simple. It penetrates through the ears into the limbs. The man does not hesitate. The man could hear because he had faith, and he has faith because the Spirit has inspired him. The Spirit concurs with Jesus, and so the man can hear the command.
So it is with us. We hear the voice commanding, ‘Take up your stretcher. Take up what has been a bed of thorns, a place of paralysis. Make it a sign of triumph, proof of the power of the Word that nothing can withstand. Look at the failing and do not fear it. Take up the weakness and turn it into a strength.’
This is the heart of Christianity, and it is made possible by the Word made flesh.
For the man once powerless, life resumes, the normal pattern of things, work and family connections. He is free at last. He goes home.
B, Sunday 8 Food
“As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they could not think of fasting.” Mk 2:19.
The consumer society consumes more and more in the delusion that happiness will come, an eternal and lasting happiness that fulfills every desire. They fill their stomachs and minds but satisfy neither. Their stomachs become huge and their appetites are insatiable. They still feel hungry because they have not eaten the food of love. The glory of God has grown dim in them.
The knowledge beyond all knowledge, the presence of the one who comes from above: that is what gives pleasure to everything on earth. Thus it is possible to find the greatest pleasure in the simplest object. When love is present, all is beautiful. When the bridegroom is present, the simplest food is satisfying.
Thus the Eucharistic meal, the simple ceremony of bread and wine, is fully satisfying; and the whole world becomes tasty. All is food for those who commune with the bridegroom. Indeed he comes so that he might feed the whole world with himself. The food is made tasty by the presence of the bridegroom and the eating of the food makes the bridegroom present.
And so the attendants in turn become food and find pleasure in being food for others. Their own bodies serve as nourishment. The whole world becomes satisfying.
B, Sunday 8 Pleasure
“Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of fasting while the bridegroom is still with them?” Mk 2:22.
The bridegroom brings joy and makes all things joyful. He gives joy upon joy, pleasure upon pleasure.
Our world seeks pleasure, but is deceived as to how to arrive at it. Consumerism is no gateway to paradise. Some pleasures give a momentary high, but are in fact exhausting.
In the long history of our Church an emphasis has sometimes been placed on displeasure in this life for the sake of pleasure in the next. This has created a false perspective. It is a concealed greed. Rather we accept the pleasures when they come; we do seek those pleasures that lead to the pleasure beyond all pleasure. Moreover, those who know how to enjoy also know how to go beyond pleasant and unpleasant to the One who transcends all things.
We know how to take on unpleasant as well as pleasant and to be swayed by neither. We are free from craving. The greatest pleasure is found not in the lower centres that do give pleasure, but in the higher faculties that make the lower faculties tremble with joy. Thus we find pleasure in the simplest things. There is no need to consume more and more. We find the greatest happiness in the infinitely happy God.
At last there is one mind, one happiness.
B, Sunday 9 Activity
“The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath’. Mk 2:27.
Sport, adventure, exercise, ‘faster, stronger, higher’: we delight in activity. The mind is free if the body is healthy, vigorous and flexible. There is much more: art, research, hobbies. Human capacity seems endless.
There are institutions that foster such activity. Great competitions are established to promote it: the Olympic Games, chess tournaments, quizzes, etc. These exist for their members; these are not fodder for the institution.
The same is true of movements inspired by great religious figures, whose time has passed. The movements are servants; they achieve their purpose and disappear.
At last, we will reach that state where activity and rest coincide, where stillness and energy coexist, where failure and success are one. There will ever new activity and ever greater rest.
B, Sunday 9 Civil law
“Is it against the law on the Sabbath day to do good, or to do evil; to save life or to kill?” Mk 3:4.
The body politic is needed for the body human. Laws are passed that govern groups or councils or nations. Customs exist that foster the interplay of human relationships. A strong skeleton is needed for every sort of body, which otherwise would collapse. Those who act rightly, as though by natural instinct, have no need for regulations; those who do not must be constrained by them. Yet these directions are made for us; we are not made for them.
When rulings let us flourish, they are good. If they cease to serve the spirit, they are changed. Rules open the space in which we can spread our wings. The delightful smile will appear only on the solid foundation of uprightness.
Without rulings we cannot function, and yet we transcend them; we are not defined by them. Each of us sings a new song, and together we provide the symphony of voices by which at last the transcendent One is praised.
B, Sunday 10 Accusation
“They were saying, ‘An unclean spirit is in him’.” Mk 3:30.
They accuse him of the worst of sins: that the spirit in him is in fact Beelzebub, prince of devils. It is high blasphemy. It is unjust, but it is valuable, since, in its withering glare, he realizes his truth more clearly.
We need criticism. There is the voice of conscience. The Spirit says ‘yes ’ or ‘no’ as we seek our way. Pain gives its warning signal. Depression rings alarm bells; tears reveal much. All these things ensure the right path is followed.
Jesus faces his accusers and is at peace. For him the will of God is paramount and he knows it. His family may come to take charge of him, but he pays no heed. Mary may be brought along, willingly or unwillingly. She is powerless to resist the demands of her extended family. But it does not matter, for she knows of what stuff her son is made; she knows he will take charge of the situation. She also knows that her son will have to face sterner judges. They think Jesus will not be able to resist his mother’s presence. But he is not beholden to her, only to the Father whom he reveals.
We face slander and calumny, detraction and false witness, even the doubts arising in our minds. All these things are there to test us. Thus our insight is cleared of all dross and we come to know the mind of God in all clarity.
B, Sunday 10 Possession
“Jesus went home with his disciples, and such a crowd collected that they could not even have a meal. When his relatives heard of this, they set out to take charge of him, convinced he was out of his mind.” Mk 3:21.
Jesus is thought to be out of his mind. His family comes to get him but he turns away from them. His true family, his mother and sisters and brothers are those who do the will of God. The crowds that come to him to feed on his words are his possession. He owns nothing but has the whole world.
Possessions are necessary in order that we can have what no possessions can bring: knowledge of God. It is by inspiration and insight, by true teaching and tradition, that the knowledge of God occurs. Then we identify with him. Through the Teacher, Christ Jesus, and under the inspirations of the Spirit, we come to the knowledge of things unseen that alone can fill the heart.
His family has come to get him. They think that he must fit in with their wishes. But is free of them. He is not their possession. Neither does God seek to possess; only Beelzebub seeks to possess and control. God’s freedom imparts freedom, and his will is obeyed only in freedom. His transcendence lets us be detached from all.
The great institutions of society, commerce and industry: all are there to serve us; and we serve God. We are not possessed but transform our possessions. All becomes gift.
B, Sunday 11 Gestation
“Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready he wastes no time: he starts to reap because that harvest has come.” Mk 4:28-29.
This vibrating universe is a complex of communications. All is expression. All are words of the Word, hidden in them like music within the notes. All realities are the language of the Word that is beyond language, that issues from the Silence.
The Word has vitality, like the seed that produces its crop. The Word, present in every form, makes each form grow and flourish, structured and energetic.
The eternal Word prepares for the enfleshment of the Word. The Word had already given voice to the prophets; it was then announced to the Virgin. She receives the Word into her very flesh and gives him birth. When he reaches maturity, he speaks himself, the Word speaking his own words. His disciples in their turn speak him to the ends of the earth. They refashion the earth. Every element of the cosmos speaks anew, every word enhanced by the Word made flesh.
Thus all possibilities are made real. Having groaned for so long, they now give birth to their best self. Then the universe will reveal the Word made flesh anew. Christ will have come again within the cosmos that now bears his shape and manifests him to the full. The harvest is ready. God is fully known at last.
B, Sunday 11 Natural
“Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know.” Mk 4:27.
It is in the very nature of seed to grow, to send down its roots, to rise into the sun and to bear its fruit.
So too Christ reveals his nature. His words and actions, his dying and his rising, show who he is. His humanity springs from his divinity. His divinity reveals the One who sent him. He is one harmonious whole. All springs from his nature.
The role of education is to allow the particular quality of each one’s character, their insights and revelations, to be made manifest. The living spring is not capped but allowed to pour forth in ways unexpected and original. When at last we have understood what is our role and purpose then we will give thanks and rest at peace. It is the time of the harvest.
Nature gives rise to the multiple forms. Who would have imagined that cosmic dust could give rise to life forms of every sort? Who would have thought that matter could hold in its bosom mind and heart, imagination and every type of emotion?
Christ is already present but hidden in the original plasma. He is not imposed from without but springs up from within, perfectly in harmony with nature, responding to the possibilities of nature, transforming nature into grace.
And so it is that we take the fruits of the earth and the work of human hands, and transform them into the highest offering and present this to the Transcendent. What more could be done? It is natural; it is supernatural.
B, Sunday 12 Jesus is the prototype
“Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.” Mk 4:41
Jesus sleeps while the storm rages. His disciples cry out, “Do you not care?” So he rises and calms the storm and all is still again. He then chides them: “Have you no faith?”
Who was asleep, they or him? Their minds are dull; they are the ones who sleep. But Jesus, even as he sleeps, is awake, for his mind is the mind of God who never sleeps. Thus Jesus in his sleep is awake; while the disciples in their fear are asleep.
Jesus has the heart and mind of God. He hears the cry of the disciples in their distress just as God heard the cry of the Hebrews in their slavery. He does in fact care, even while the disciples are agitated by the tumult of the waves.
Jesus stands there in the boat, commanding wind and sea. All have come from him and all are subject to his word. He contains and governs all things. Coming from the calm of eternity calms all things in the end. Jesus is the perfect man, the prototype of redeemed humanity.
So too for those who have the mind of their master. All is given into their hands; they too bring order into chaos and calm into turmoil.
There are other boats on the lake that do not see the terror of the disciples or hear the words of command. They must have been puzzled at the sudden calm that comes upon the lake. Those in the boat know what has happened. So too all is revealed in the Church.
B, Sunday 12 Jesus contains all
“But he was in the stern, his head on the cushion asleep.” Mk 4:38
Jesus is calm, even as the storm rages around him. He knows the stillness of his mind and the tumult of the sea and enjoys them both, for he is at home in either. He dwells in the most profound calm, the calm that existed before the tumult of the world began. He sleeps deeply, at the deepest level of sleep. Even when he is awake he is asleep, for his mind is that of God himself in whom sleep and wakefulness coincide, for his rest and his activity are identical.
Jesus lives at the deepest level and knows its power. He has no fear; he is confident. Nothing happens that he does not wish. His disciples, however, live on the surface of things. They are disturbed when the surface of the lake is disturbed. Their world disintegrates when the waves are torn by the wind.
The disciples ask, “Who is this?” for they do not yet understand. Jesus in his equilibrium holds all things in balance. He can say to the waters of the sea, “Come into being” or “Go no further”. He is at peace in calm and storm, life and death, good and evil, for he contains all. He is not distressed as others are distressed who are without faith.
Asleep in the boat Jesus is awake to the situation. When he commands the elements he is in union with the One who is beyond all. It will be his turn, however, to ask the question: “What shall I say, ‘Save me from this hour’?” The time will come for his soul to be sorrowful to the point of death. Yet even within this turmoil he will have the calm that comes from obedience and he will know his Father best in the sleep of the cross.
B, Sunday 13 Jesus is medicine
“And taking the child by the hand he said to her, “Talitha kum!” which means, “Little girl, I tell you to get up.” The little girl got up at once ….” Mk 5:41-42.
Jesus touches the dead girl by the hand and she is restored to life. The old woman touches the hem of his garment and she is healed. In both of them life is restored. Jesus frees the woman from the dread of her worsening complaint; he frees the parents from the anguish of losing their child.
Power goes out from his body and heals the body, for his body is medicine. He is wonderfully healthy. He has the strength and vitality that come from his inmost nature, for he is the Holy One, the Strong One, the Immortal One. He comes in flesh to share in the vulnerability of flesh, and to make it glorious. He is the medicine given to human flesh to restore it to itself.
Thus he gives himself as food so that all might eat and drink of him and be healed. He draws all to his body, so as to be the body among bodies, at the centre of history. He wishes to offer in sacrifice no lamb or ox but his own self, so that he might know in his own flesh the suffering of all human flesh and with the strength of his unfailing nature to provide the endless fountain of life.
The health of the human body is made complete in the resurrection when all are released from mortality and corruptibility. Human flesh will increasingly be healthy and increasingly become a source of life and vitality. We shall feed on each other and become each other, one body out of the many bodies. We will give our life force to each other, made supremely communicable by being transfigured and resurrected. What greater value can be given to human flesh than to be the source of life for human flesh?
B, Sunday 13 Encouragement
“My daughter, your faith has restored you to health.” Mk 5:34.
She is ill, unclean, an embarrassment to all. She has no money, no prospects but she has knowledge. She has felt unwell for so long, humiliated and shamed, shunned and impoverished, as good as dead, but she has faith.
She comes forward and touches without arrogance, without presumption, confident with hope beyond hope. The delicacy of her touch has healed her in the most delicate part of her being. She feels the power coming to heal her just as he feels the power going out of him, and she trembles, overwhelmed at what has happened. He demands to know who has touched him. She fears the exposure, she who has been so often singled out with shame, but he does command that she come forward so that he might acknowledge her in the presence of all who had despised her. He does not focus on himself but on her. It is not so much his power; it is her faith that has healed her. She has healed herself. She has drawn out his power just as Mary drew down the Word, that power which is always there, waiting to be used, waiting to be called on in faith. The woman’s faith has made Jesus powerful. His power was unused, but now it is made effective.
Jesus has acknowledged her; she has shown to the crowds just who he is. They part, both made more real for the encounter.
B, Sunday 14 Jesus is transcendent
“Where did the man get all this?” Mk 6:2
Jesus comes to his hometown, to the people with whom he had spent thirty years. They have seen him grow up. He has shared with them the ups and downs of life. They know his brothers and sisters. They know him well; they do not know him really.
Surprised at his wisdom and miracles, they ask in surly fashion, “Where did the man get all this?” Obtuse and sluggish, they want to bring him down to the same level as themselves. They have no faith in him.
Yet he knows who he is. He knows he is from above. He knows the essential origin of his nature. He knows he is, in his character, in his actions, in his emotions, in his very flesh, the expression of the transcendent God. Indeed, only if he is from above can he take us above. Only if he is the fullness of God can we come to know God in all fullness.
But his townsfolk have no insight. They cannot really see him, and do not understand. They have not been reborn from above and cannot see the things that are from above. Tied to the earth, living only by the senses, they cannot see beyond. They cannot perceive his unutterable depths.
Jesus had come home, hoping to find acceptance. But there is no homecoming for him. The episode ends in sadness. He must turn away from people he had loved. His origin from above means he must go beyond the limitations of Nazareth. His disciples will become his family.
B, Sunday 14 Jesus is sacred
“A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house.” Mk 6:4
Jesus comes to Nazareth, to the village he knew so well, to those he had played with as a child, to those who had helped him mature. But there is no homecoming. He came in joy; he departs in sorrow. He had come with good news but he is rejected as an impostor. His only family will be his disciples, but they in turn will be scandalised by his passion.
He had come with sacred words. His heart is sacred, his hands and feet are sacred; his emotions, his blood, his garments and every aspect of his being: all are sacred, for he is the Holy sent by the Holy of Holies, a prophet but more than a prophet: he is the Word. This he knows, for his eyes are opened, while the eyes of his countrymen are closed.
To the secular mind all is secular. To the consumerist society nothing is sacred. Those with scientific minds will see things scientifically. Those with artistic eyes see the beauty that surrounds them. Those with lover’s eyes see love wherever they turn. Those with the eyes of God see sacredness everywhere, and all their actions are sacred.
To the pure all is pure; to the sacred all is sacred. Nothing is to be exploited. Life is sacred; emotions are sacred. Children are sacred and to be cherished; the aged are sacred and to be revered. Human flesh is to be respected, never injured or abused, never seen as inconvenient, but given every opportunity to reach its fulfilment.
Sacred and profane, faith and refusal: these are the contradictions at work in Nazareth. He is inhibited by their inertia, and can work no miracle. It is a rude awakening for him, a foretaste of the future. He will be rejected by his people, by his disciples and by the whole world. But he does not draw back. He continues on his way.
B, Sunday 15 Jesus’ body: the Church
“Then he summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs …” Mk 6.7
Jesus knows who he is; he knows his authority; he knows the role given to him by the One. So he calls the Twelve to himself and makes them one body with him. They let themselves be called for they recognise they are the expression of his very being. His disciples’ words are his words; his mind is their mind.
He sends them; they are ready and willing to be sent. He empowers them and they move under his impetus. They are motivated, inspired and charged with his energy. They are his hand flung out to the world, spreading the seed of his teaching in one vast movement.
So they go out proclaiming repentance, not just a return to the ancient ethic, but a change of heart, a wholly new vision of the world, for a new heavens and a new earth. It is not a return to the past but a turning to the future hidden in the past.
Jesus inhabits them and they are glad to be his body, the expression of his being, for they truly become themselves in becoming him. They recognise him in themselves and they come to know themselves in him. He is their heart; they are his manifestation.
They are to go out, not singly but in pairs, forming a Church in miniature, and he is with them as they journey along the road.
They are to take nothing with them except the power to cure the sick and cast out devils. Their divestment is at the same time an investment. They are gifted even as they are impoverished. They are to curse those who refuse them but to bless with healing those who accept them. They renew the earth and call all to join them in this task.
B, Sunday 15 Communities of the Word
“… and if any place does not make you welcome, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.” Mk 6:11
Rejection invites rejection. If they are not welcoming, then the messengers must get rid of the dust of their town, for the hostile hearers are dust returning to dust, condemned as useless.
The words of God are welcomed only by those who already have the grace of God. Like recognises like; like rejects unlike.
It is also confrontational. A sign is given to the townsfolk, to shock them and perhaps to heal them. If they do not accept the word, perhaps the drastic sign will convince them. From beginning to end, the message and the sign are good news.
The real dust is not something tangible, but the deformation of the mind, the hardening of heart and will.
B, Sunday 16 Exaltation
“You must more say to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while.” Mk 6:31.
Jesus is tired, the apostles are exhausted; so he invites them to go off to some lonely place and rest.
The time will come when Jesus will die from exhaustion, his blood poured out, his breath breathed forth. Then he will ascend to a lonely place, or rather to the place where angels have gathered with all the saints of the past, to the side of the One who sent him and there he will take his seat, and rest in exultation.
Yet this state of rest is not indolence. Just as his humiliation is his exaltation, his most profound rest is his fullest activity, for his activity is effortless; he rests as even as he acts. His rest is so complete that power comes from him, just as light shines out powerfully from the flame.
While on earth, Jesus is Lord in fact, not in effect. He has yet fully to exercise his lordship. The people come, and he sets about teaching them, bringing them to the fullness of the word and to himself. He cannot refuse their need; he is full of compassion, for they are like sheep without a shepherd.
The risen and exalted Lord still draws to himself. He is the magnet. He exults in his own joy and exults in others finding their exultation in him. His body draws all bodies; his emotions inspire emotions; his mind is projected into the Church; his spirit fills the whole world. So the cosmos hears the One who speaks the Word.
When at last he has accomplished his purpose and all are transfigured into himself, then there will be rest and communion. Jesus is exalted and exalts.
The people come wanting more. There will be no ceasing to desire more, and no failure to receive more, so that joy increases exponentially. The exaltation is unending for God is infinite. There is no end to their ascension into the fullness of rest and activity. This is fullness: to become ever fuller. Exaltation does not cease.
B, Sunday 16 Transformation
“… and he set himself to teach them at some length.” Mk 6:34.
His words flow out, with power and effect, in simplicity and peace. They captivate the whole world, awakening hope, and giving joy, transforming the listeners so that they become the words spoken, they become the Word that is speaking to them. They are transformed.
Their need inspires his words, so that he too is transformed by them. He sees their need, and out of compassion he comes to their aid. They come to him and draw words out of him. Their willing ear inspires words in him and make him able him to speak; they make him a teacher.
A new thing has appeared on the face of the earth: the Speaker from above and the Listener from above as well, for it is the Spirit in them that leads them to his side. The Spirit from eternity draws the Word out of eternity. And God himself is shown to be truly God, coming to the rescue of his people.
As Jesus sits there and teaches, heaven and earth are transformed. The world is reshaped and reinterpreted, made whole again. It is empowered, and in turn empowers others. It is loved and made lovable. It is given meaning and so finds its vitality.
His teaching is not just for that single day but reaches into the future. The act of speaking is endless in its effects. The words still ring, changing the nature of things.
They are representatives of the cosmos. Each person gives added meaning to the universe and so all transform all.
When all have spoken their word, in great symphony of voices, then there will be rest at last, not the cessation of activity but the identity of rest and action. All is transformed into the interplay of Word and Spirit, and the Father is known, the One beyond all names and forms.
B, Sunday 17 Banquet
“They all ate as much as they wanted.” Jn 6:12.
They are amazed as they see the endless multiplication of bread and fish.
They hear the breaking of the bread and touch it; they smell and taste the savour of this bread come from out of nowhere. Every sense is satisfied.
They go beyond the senses to the meaning. They see the unseen. They taste the future. They take part already in the banquet of heaven when every hunger will be satisfied: hunger for food, for meaning, for community, for freedom and power.
Jesus takes loaves and fish and enables those who receive thus food to become food in return. We are bread because of the bread received. Our own bodies are food for the universe. All will feast on all. The banquet will not longer be with bread and fish but with our own being, our own memories and good deeds. The banquet is the sign of the eternal banquet in our own body and blood.
The consumer society devours but does not become bread. It takes but does not give. It is a bottomless pit, not a source of food. It eats and is never satisfied. It eats and yet fails to live because it is essentially dead.
On the hillside in Galilee, there is sign upon sign. The multiplication is a statement about the world: it is abundantly fruitful, with infinite capacity. Jesus gives out bread because he is bread, life itself. His action forecasts his gift of himself in the Eucharist; it prefigures the banquet of the living who enable each other to become food upon food. Here is an endless cornucopia.
B, Sunday 17 Consecration
“Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out …” Jn 6:11.
Since Jesus is from beyond this world he can enter this world in every way. Since this world proceeds from his self he can join it to himself. From all that he could choose, he selects bread because it best defines the indefinable. He takes it and names it, “This is my body”. The bread images him forth. He is essentially bread. He is the essence of bread. Taken to himself, it is consecrated by himself. But all this is done because he blesses God, the source of all. As he blessed God he blesses the bread and consecrates it.
Jesus distributes bread to the five thousand because he is bread to the entire universe. What was an object in a basket now becomes a gift, and as gift it contains the giver. It is all that he is: his memory, his hope, his suffering, his nature, his being, his life, his story. As gift received it also contains the recipient. Jesus and the five thousand are united in the loaves that have been multiplied.
Jesus gathers his disciples at the Last Supper and gives them his body. “Holy things to the holy”. Only the Body can receive the Body. The Body becomes Body by receiving the Body. The Body truly becomes itself by receiving itself. The Body penetrates the Body and brings a joy that nothing can take away, endless, refined, delicate, light, enlivening, satisfying, bewildering. The Body is touched and tasted and felt and seen and smelt. Every sense is satisfied.
As the Bread penetrates into them, they become Bread to the world. As the Body penetrates the whole universe, awareness is unlocked, consciousness is opened up and all become Bread to the Bread, Body to the Body: one Bread, one Body.
B, Sunday 18 Gift
“It is my Father who gives you the bread from heaven, the true bread; for the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” Jn 6:32-33.
To be gifted is a blessing, but to be a gift is the supreme blessing. And not just anyone’s gift, but also a gift of God in which God is present and communicated.
Jesus is the supreme gift, the Bread come down from heaven and given to the world. He is directed and purposeful. Nothing is held back. He is at the disposal of the Giver, fully obedient, adaptable, free and unconfined. As gift he experiences exhilaration and vitality.
Consumers, however, because they never give, they never receive. They become increasingly empty and eventually cease to be. What is only taken is never received; what is given is kept. By giving oneself one becomes oneself; in giving oneself one receives oneself, becoming complete and whole.
Who receives the gift? For if the giver is in the gift, the receiver is also present and involved. Thus the giver, the gift and the receiver are all present, all one.
B, Sunday 18 Thanksgiving
“Sir, give us that bread always.” Jn 6:34
It is right to give thanks for the fruits of the earth. But Jesus comes as the Gift of Heaven.
A gift may be given but it is not received until there is thanksgiving. The expression of thanks arises naturally from the experience of receiving. It is an acknowledgment not only of the gift but also of the giver. It is an acknowledgement of the graciousness of the giver, a statement that the gift is not a repayment, not merited, not imposed, not presumed, not taken for granted, not grasped. The graciousness of the giver inspires a return of graciousness in thanks. Freely given and freely received, all is done in freedom.
To receive the Bread of Life is to become the Bread of Life. The gift defines the receiver. Thanks are given for this above all: to be Bread in the Bread. Thus giving and thanksgiving are one. There is one Bread, given and received by the Bread.
B, Sunday 19 Real Presence
“The bread that I shall give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” Jn 6:51.
Jesus speaks his words to the people and they feel drawn to him. He is sent and they come near; they meet. This is the heart of the Christian mystery: the presence of person to person. Jesus and his listeners are present to each other, not self-absorbed, not domineering but open, surrendering, true, and wholehearted. This meeting is eternal life.
Jesus and the people meet because already they dwell in each other. The teaching he gives has its effect because already the Word has been spoken to them from within. Because it has already been inspired from within, it is heard from without.
The priest who stands at the altar is present, by the gift of faith, to Jesus, to the one in whom he lives, who in fact he is. The priest takes the gifts presented by the people and takes them to himself. He proclaims the words, “This is my Body”, and ‘this is all that I am and all that I have’. The words are effective because they are inspired and transform the gifts into what is said over them. The mantra transforms by the power of the mantra. The celebrant says, “This is my body”, and therefore it is “my body”. It is the expression of Jesus’ being, if only all could see. It is the perceptive heart that sees, the sensitive ear that hears. The eye of faith is able to see beyond appearances to the reality. Those who are present to the Presence can see the presence.
The Bread in the tabernacle is the reality of Jesus. It is the reality of the Church and the reality of the priest, for Jesus is not separate from any of these. Recognizing the gift, the communicants recognize the giver who is already present in them, Body already within the Body. This is real presence, not symbolism, not an illusion masking absence. The communicants can see the presence of the giver who is in the gift, who is indeed the gift, for the gift is his very self.
B, Sunday 19 Offering
“… this is the bread that comes down from heaven …” Jn 6:50.
The people present gifts of bread and wine to the priest and through him to God in tribute, as a statement ‘You are bread’, and as a prayer that God should be what he is, ‘Be bread for us now.’
In surrendering the bread, the people offer themselves in surrender to the One whom they trust, and so they come to their own fullness. Only in the surrender of oneself does one possess oneself.
They surrender their own food, and receive back a hundred fold. Their offering from the earth is returned as Bread from heaven. It is a mutual exchange of gifts. The bread offered by human hands is returned as the Bread not made by human hands.
They offer the bread to the priest so that might be bread for them. They engage him to be what he is called to be. For his part he commits himself to being bread for them by receiving their tribute of bread. Likewise, in offering these gifts the people undertake to be bread of life and wine of joy for others. All is Bread; all is Wine; all is Offering.
B, Sunday 20 Fruit
“Anyone who does eat my flesh and drink my blood has eternal life and I will raise him up on the last day.” Jn 6:54.
By receiving the one body the communicants become one body; by receiving the body who is risen as spirit, the communicants become one spirit. They are one body in the body, one spirit in the spirit, one body and one spirit, one spiritual body, one bodily spirit: all one.
Those who have been brought to faith in the incarnate Word by means of the Spirit are already one body with him. But those who are one body in Christ will want to express what they are, and so the community of the faithful gathers together and takes the gifts of bread and wine. Through the priest who speaks for them, they too say of the bread offered, “This is my body” and so they reveal themselves. The host on the altar is their own body, which is the body of the Lord. And the wine in the cup is their blood since they are one blood in the Lord.
Thus the internal and the external, the manifest and unmanifest are one. Looking at the consecrated host on the altar, the communicants see themselves; looking within themselves, in their baptismal character, they foresee the host to be consecrated on the altar. By eating the body they have placed there, they receive themselves and become what they are. The body produces the body and by consuming the body becomes the body.
This is the community’s hunger: to eat of their master, to eat of his flesh and drink of his blood, to be given life and to be life giving. The communicants wish to eat together and so become one with each other. They receive each other, for they are food in the food and eat of each other’s flesh in the one whose flesh they are. This is the ultimate banquet: to eat of each other, becoming food for the food.
The communicants take on the mind of the Master, his flesh and spirit, his heart and his nature, his eternity and his story, and so become free from ignorance and inertia, fully alive in the living one, fully conscious at last.
These are the fruits of communion.
B, Sunday 20 Communion
“He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood lives in me and I in him.” Jn 6:56.
A gift is given and received. The giver is present in the gift and the receiver too is present in the gift. In the gift both giver and receiver commune as one.
This is true of all gifts but is true above all of the gift given in the communion sacrifice, for nothing is held back. The body is crucified, the blood is poured out. Who can receive the gift without hesitation, for it is distressing and enticing? It is glorious and debased. In it the divine and the human are one. We become divine-humans in the human-divine, the Word made flesh. The blood that is drunk is the lifeblood of the incarnate Son and the life of the living God. Thus we become of one blood with God. In drinking the blood, we taste the life that inhabits all that lives.
Communion is no mere substitute, no mere appearance but calls for insight and knowledge, gnosis and the perception of things hidden. The Bread received in communion is not just a symbol, a semblance or equivalent. The bread on the altar is essentially the Bread from heaven. Indeed, the host is what it signifies; it is not just like what is signified. It is the expression of the Bread of life and not other than the living Bread come down from heaven.
All who receive the Blood become of one blood. All who receive of the Flesh become one flesh. The communicants become one with the gift, one with the giver and one with each other. They communicants receive each other and commit themselves to each other. They undertake to be sacrifice in the sacrifice and so to shed their blood for each other. There is one sacrifice, one sacrificed and one act of sacrificing. All is one in a holy communion.
B, Sunday 21 Community
“This is intolerable language …. You have the message of eternal life.” Jn 6:60, 68.
Who else has ever said, “Eat my body and drink my blood”. Others have pointed to others for their salvation. Jesus points to himself. But the teaching is too marvelous. Many cannot accept it; they say, “This is intolerable language”.
But Christians, who also stand surprised at the language, accept it. “You have the words of everlasting life.” If these words had not been said, humanity would die wanting to hear them. And so our hearts are amazed and say ‘Yes’.
We are not a club but a community who eat the one body and drink the one blood. We have the like mind and the like heart, the same hope, the same Lord. We acknowledge each other’s knowledge. The one Spirit brings us to the one perception of the one Lord. We experience the same insight; we are confirmed by each other. Wonder joins us together beyond all knowledge. We are taken out of ourselves and leave behind division and conflict. We also challenge and purify each other in graciousness and mutual encouragement.
We see the one in whom we believe; we see the one who we are. We enter into the one reality and find life in each other and in him who taught that day in the synagogue in Capernaum.
B, Sunday 21 Different points of view
“Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the message of eternal life?” Jn 6:68.
After the main service at the High Kirk in Edinburgh, the minister led a Communion Service. With piety and devotion he commemorated the Last Supper and invited all to partake. Never have I seen such reverence and love. As he remembered the Lord, broke the bread and shared it among the communicants, he reminded them of the Saviour who died for them.
According to the teaching of the High Kirk, the bread was the not the Lord himself but a substitute for the Lord. The bread, once used, was put away in its container, not into a tabernacle. The wine that was left over was put back in the bottle for use on another occasion. The celebrant recalled the past but did unite not present and past. This was his faith and it was deeply moving for me.
The Catholic Church has a different view. The congregation is taken back in faith to the centre of time. The congregation’s memory is not a recollection of things past but a sundering of time. The past ceases to be past and becomes present. The congregation is present at the Last Supper, at Calvary, indeed in heaven. Past, present and future cease, and the congregation enters into the eternal present of the Paschal Mystery. The participants do not commemorate the sacrifice; they make it. They do not copy a past event; they enact it. Once again, as the priest says the words and performs the gestures, it is Jesus who acts. He says of this bread that it is his body and so it is really: it is not like, not equivalent, not apparently so, but truly. This is not symbolism but reality. It is the real presence.
B, Sunday 22 Unclean
“Why do you disciples not respect the tradition of the elders but eat their food with unclean hands?” Mk 7:5.
To those whose mind is the same as Christ Jesus, there is no division into pure and impure. To the clean all things are clean. But for those who have not been purified by the Spirit of Truth the world is indeed fractured into the categories of clean and unclean.
Thus Jesus could let himself be touched by the ‘impure’ woman with a haemorrhage; he could touch the ‘impure’ corpse of the young girl, and remain unaffected. For no impurity could soil him. He moves with complete freedom, at home everywhere.
Jesus in his perfect purity pays no attention to ritual impurity but is conscious of sin, the real impurity. Cleanliness is valuable; good manners are useful; beauty is to be appreciated, but they do not confer value. It is purity of the heart that makes all things beautiful, tasteful and approachable. The peaceful make all things peaceful; the loving make all things lovable. Jesus, the Pure, makes all things pure.
B, Sunday 22 Guilt
“Nothing that goes into a man from outside can make him unclean; it is the things that comes out of a man that make him unclean.” Mk 7:15.
Neither background or social class, heredity or culture: none of these provide the basis for guilt or innocence. Feelings of guilt are not the proof of guilt, nor are feelings of innocence the proof of innocence. It is from the intentions of the heart that innocence and guilt derive. It is what we do, not what is done to us that makes us innocent or guilty. From those whose heart is the divine Heart, good upon good come, streams of clear and living water.
The enlightened conscience reveals where guilt lies and points out the path of innocence. Those who are innocent do not blame; those who are blameworthy accuse others of what they should accuse in themselves. Blaming is a proof of blame.
Jesus comes in order to be blamed for the sins of all mankind. The anger directed against God is directed at him precisely because he is innocent. The guilty blame the innocent so as to be free of their guilt. Jesus takes this sin and turns it into grace. By being driven out of the city and crucified and discarded, he in fact becomes significant and powerful. He redeems the world’s guilt and restores its innocence.
B, Sunday 23 Insane
“He has done all things well,” they said “he makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.” Mk 7:37.
Jesus puts his fingers in the ears of the deaf mute, places spittle on his tongue and says, “Be open”. The Word incarnate has emptied himself and so opened himself without limit. He it is who can open the minds and hearts and faculties of all. Only those who are open-minded can open the minds that are closed. Jesus in his body releases humanity from its ailments, the physical burdens, but the mental problems, the schizophrenia, the confusions.
At last there will be no masks, no cover up, but simple presence. There will be no exclusion; room will be given to all; no turning away, but doors of opportunity will be opened for all.
Society is healed when it allows room for those who are in mental difficulty. When it is closed to them, it becomes increasingly insane. They are necessary. We need the autistic and the disturbed as much as we need the genius and the sane. The burdens they carry release us from our burdens. They help us as we help them. Only when those who are healthy make room for those who are unwell, do the healthy achieve the full opening of their own minds and hearts. We are healed when we heal.
Then strange things happen: they open up heaven in us, a sense of peace and eternity, a sense of wonder and admiration.
B, Sunday 23 Retarded
“And they brought to him a deaf man who had an impediment in his speech …” Mk 7:32.
Jesus opens the ears of the deaf and loosens their tongue. He comes to open up all human capacities. As one faculty opens like a lotus flower at the dawning of the day, it prepares for the opening of another faculty. It is a continuous flowering, a source of delight and wonder.
What sadness when parents discover their newborn child is retarded. What pity must break their heart as they realise their child will not enjoy life as they have enjoyed it. Yet we are all retarded, since none of our faculties are fully developed. We are blocked by fears or lack of opportunity, or by the lesser grace given to us.
On the other hand, those who are called ‘retarded’ are in fact a gift to us, for without them we will remain undeveloped. They are an invitation to us to change our minds and change our lives, an invitation to conversion, to emotional and spiritual growth. We need them.
Then we will find that it does not matter who is retarded and who is not. They bear one limitation so that we may be free of other limitations. They heal us of our debility.
To eliminate the retarded out of some false idea of what it is to be human is to become a monstrosity. They are sacred and must be treated with immense respect. Whatever our level of development, we all have a place and a function.
Jesus, perfectly pure and balanced, seeing all his capacities being reduced to nothing, dying with such focus and patience, with such equanimity and calm, is the one who heals and makes us able to be bear each others’ burdens.
B, Sunday 24 Commitment
“Peter spoke up and said to him “You are the Christ.” Mk 8:29.
Peter acknowledges Jesus as the Christ. In doing so he commits himself to all that Christ is, from whence he comes and where he leads. Yet Peter does not realise the implications. He thinks of Jesus as the leader who will free his people from the Roman yoke, from disease and poor harvests. He does not realise the lesson of the cross, that the Christ leads beyond limitation and takes his followers into the void.
To have faith in Jesus means following him into nothingness, into that state without dimension, inconceivable, ineffable, incomprehensible. Peter must lose everything and become nothing. He must be committed to the true Christ, the suffering Christ. He must be open to all and limited to none. He must abandon his own will, all thoughts and preconceptions; he must enter into ignorance and uncertainty, into the dark night where only the illumination of the indefinable Spirit leads. The Spirit will show him what faith means.
But wonder of wonders! When he becomes committed to the Nothing he becomes the All. What delight there is in entering this darkness, where the Spirit leads along ways unknown before.
An immense energy will then pour out of Peter, as it will supremely from the Christ whose heart is opened by the thrust of the lance.
B, Sunday 24 Fear
“Then taking him aside, Peter started to remonstrate with him.” Mk 8:32.
Peter gasps in fear, “Lord, this must not happen to you”. He is also saying, ‘This must not happen to me’. The knowledge is beginning to dawn on him that this indeed will happen. He is coming to terms with the shadow side of his glorious Master. He fears to lose all that his ambition had coveted: namely triumph and fame, comfort and glory, power and possession. He sees his hopes crumble before him, and he is deeply shaken. He has yet to learn the teaching of his Master, which is to be equal in pain and gain, success and failure, because something far greater is available through suffering.
Every person must travel the same path. All must face their fears and accept them, for their fears hold as much truth as their hopes. Fear of foreigners, of discomfort, of things new and strange, fear of intrusion, failure, and error: all these are the shadow side of splendour. They must happen, and in them something far greater is attained.
B, Sunday 25 Foetus
“Anyone who welcomes one of these little children I my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but he one who sent me.” Mk 9: 37.
Jesus enfolds the child in his arms, as though gathering him into a womb. He open his arms to the child who opens his arms to him, both of them wanting to love and wanting to be loved. There is no power play here, no status, but only heart. Jesus gathers the child to his own heart, heart to heart.
Jesus then teaches that to welcome the child is to welcome him, Jesus, and in welcoming him to welcome the One who delivered him into this world. The child too, when he grows up, will be sent into this world to take up his responsibilities. Did the memory of Jesus touch him deeply? Who knows? We can only imagine.
The foetus is not a passive recipient but the active agent. The foetus is part of the woman’s body in a geographical sense, but the woman is part of the foetus’s body in an active sense, for the foetus controls the process of gestation from the moment of conception through to birth. The foetus also feels and learns, not consciously as in adult life, but at the deepest levels of consciousness where the foundations of the character are being laid.
We too are like foetuses, being formed, delivered and sent. We are still coming to be. Our progress has begun and we do not want to see it stopped. We want people to be patient with us and not to judge us as inconvenient. Like the foetus we are largely potential. The prospect of future growth is immense; we wish to reach our full humanity.
Future generations will look at our own and stand aghast at the blood of millions aborted each year, a veritable massacre of the innocents. The foetus pays for the ignorance of its society.
By eliminating the human foetus we are teaching later generations to eliminate us too when we become inconvenient. Our society has sown the wind and will reap the whirlwind. Those who abort will be aborted when they reach their second childhood. If the unborn are denied their humanity now, later generations will deny us ours. If those still in process of being formed are thwarted, later generations will prevent us reaching our potential. Those who abort in this life will be aborted from the life to come.
Jesus knows he is not welcome. He has foretold that he too will be cut off from the land of the living. He is not welcome because the One who sent him is not welcome. The aborted foetus shares in the passion of the Lord and will know his glory.
B, Sunday 25 Children
“He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them …” Mk 9:36
The disciples have been arguing which of them is the greatest. They pointed perhaps to their intelligence or to their commitment, to their views on the kingdom or to their connections. Jesus reacts strongly and takes a child into his arms, presenting him as the true disciple of the kingdom.
Jesus welcomes the child into his arms because of the child’s infinite capacity. What possibility lies there waiting to be brought to its flowering? He calls on his disciples to adopt the mind of the child, for the child is welcoming, does not judge, calls for love and affection, for simplicity and playfulness, without presumption or condemnation or ambition. The child is teachable and capable of every development, physical and emotional and intellectual.
Yet every age has seen the abuse of children: child soldiers, child labour, and child prostitution. Even in affluent counties, children are taught to value the illusions of money and class, to hate members of other religions and races.
The child is the real teacher, the disciples are not. To take on the child’s mind is to take on Jesus’ mind, for does not lose his childhood even in his maturity. The child reveals the face of Jesus, who is the eternal child, who in turn reveals the face of God the Child. For God has only just begun the work of creation, at play, free and uninhibited, surprising and secure. The child is best able to approach God. It is the adult with the fearful and ambitious mind who locks God out.
B, Sunday 26 Chastity
“If your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off.” Mk 9:43.
Jesus speaks in the powerful imagery suited to his day. His words must not be taken literally. He is not suggesting mutilation as a way to refrain from sinning. He is advocating not mutilation but cessation. He recommends shifting the focus away from the object of sinful desire onto the kingdom. This means being able to have and to have not, to be equal in every circumstance.
This is true of every faculty and emotion. It is true especially of sexual drive where the whole person is involved in every dimension, in every act and thought, for the whole world is structured by the union of male and female. It is more necessary than eye or limb. To ignore this need is to fly in the face of reality.
It means being the ‘erotic ascetic’, able to take or leave because a higher motivation and pleasure are at work. It means being able to say yes or no. When the heart is already a member of the kingdom, all falls into place. One lives and expresses sexuality according to the condition of one’s life. Chastity is not suppression but harmony. The present body is seen in relation to the future body, the body of the kingdom. The body of sex seen in this way enables a person to take on the sexuality of every generation. The sexuality of the universe is included in our own. We mirror forth the whole of reality with its vitality and union.
B, Sunday 26 Family planning
“… it is better for you to enter into life crippled than, than ….. Mk 9:45
How happy those who surrender to impulse, to the anticipation of delight, to the play of imagination, to the unexpected play of love. Happy when passion inspires, and a music plays from deep within. These are precious moments: they are taken into a world beyond thoughts, into the sleep of the reason and the awakening of the senses. They are conscious and aware, but not calculating or manipulative. Rather, they succumb to the waywardness of pleasure. Depths are plumbed they had not known before, and they fly in the spaciousness of mutual trust.
A time comes when love-making must be planned. Yes, but how? Not by doing violence to the emotions. Accepting the necessities of life, yes, but not reducing life to aims and ambitions. There is a time to be in control; there is a time to be spontaneous. There is a time to achieve one’s aim and a time to be caught by surprise.
This is not naivety or carelessness, not imprudence or arrogance. It is play: adults regain their innocence and recover the liveliness of the child.
The children that may come from an ‘unplanned pregnancy’ appear as a delight and a hope, a shock and a test. Even so, may the parents, made in the divine image, feel they are blessed with children made in their parents’ image. Children are images of the image, glory of the glory.
B, Sunday 27 Marriage
“But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave his father and mother, and the two become one body.” Mk 10:6-7.
As Abraham left his father’s house for a land he did not know, so too the man leaves his father and mother and joins himself to his wife. Although, as Genesis relates, Adam is in charge of all the trees in paradise, and master of all living creatures, he is not satisfied by them. It is only when Eve is presented to him that he cries out, “This at last ….” He brings to her all that he is and has. Although he is master of all, he is nothing without her. He is both powerful and powerless. All has been done done in anticipation of her. After the multiple failures she is the success. She is the solution. She is the goal and fulfilment. Reality is essentially a wedding.
The man and the woman, in mutual presence, give and receive each the other, surrender to and take each the other. This leads to the experience of that union that lies at the basis of all marital union: namely mystical marriage, and in the experience of that mystical marriage, the ineffable God is attained.
B, Sunday 27 Indissolubility
“What God has united, man must not divide.” Mk 10:9.
God is one and therefore the image of God is one. But the ultimate image of God is not individual; it is man – woman united. In their union they find the bliss that belongs to consciousness. Without it they experience inertia and opaqueness.
Division in the human heart is the work of Satan, father of lies and turmoil. The People in the desert are trapped in their desires, unwilling to be taught by Moses. Adam and Eve in the Garden disobey God and turn on each other. They lose their truth and find their heart divided. God is not known; and because God is unknown, bliss is unknown.
The human heart seeks the union of opposites. Man and woman wish each other to authentic, diverse, complimentary, but with fidelity, honesty, and commitment, in a manner that is stable, lasting, and reliable.
The One God seeks to bring them to the unity, the self-consistency, the integrity, the peace that he enjoys. Man and woman rest each in their own self and each in the other’s self. They will not divorce; they remain close to each other, and so they come to their divinity.
B, Sunday 28 Youth
“Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.” Mk 10:20.
The man declares that he has kept all the commands since his earliest youth. He is the finest flower of Israel. Blessed in so many ways, he is now given blessing upon blessing, for Jesus extends the invitation to leave all and follow him who left his Father’s side to become man and enter the royal road of the cross.
It is the moment of truth. Will the young man leave all and follow him? He does not, and becomes old at that instant. He is like children who grow old before their time, when the light goes out of their eyes. He will not be like the old who are forever young. He will not be like God who is both ancient and young because present to every age and time.
The young man is called to have nothing and to be everything. He is called back to the beginning where there is every possibility, every hope. He is invited to follow someone, to go on the great adventure of life, but he does not. In his heart there is a worm that has eaten him from within. The story is sad.
Youth is not a matter of veins and arteries, joints and bones, but of the heart and the mind. There are children who are already old; there are old people who have retained the promise of youth.
No matter our age, we stand on the threshold of life with a future beyond our imagining. No need to look to the past and regret good looks and possessions, travel and beautiful clothes. It is the heart that gives youth and the power of the spirit. To be like Jesus who is forever young because he is full of promise.
B, Sunday 28 Maturation
“Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and said, “There is one thing you lack. Go sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have great treasure in heaven; then come follow me.” But his face fell…” Mk 10:21-22.
The young man has had a fine upbringing; he has fulfilled all his duties; he is gifted with money and good character. He us the fine flower of Judaism.
He is loved by Jesus who looks at him and sees possibilities that lie within him. So Jesus gives him the gift that fulfills all gifts saying, “Come follow me”. It is the moment of truth. Can he rise to the opportunity? He is unwilling. The story is a sad one. He refuses to give up those very things that had made him so fine. He refuses the adventure Jesus proposes to him. He says no and crumbles. His soul begins to grow sour. He refuses to be free. The promising youth has failed the test.
Maturity means freedom, detachment, and the abandonment of ego. It means taking a universal stance, not being tied to what is seen and touched. It means entering on unfamiliar paths, taking the risk and seeking life where it is unexpected. The greatest maturity means becoming a source of life for others. This is Christian discipleship: to set out into darkness and to become light.
Such is the offer made to the man in the story, better than the inheritance his parents had given him. He is loved with Jesus look of love, but refuses and remains immature. No one will ever again look on him with such love.
B, Sunday 29 Service
“Anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all.” Mk 10:43-44.
The true servant is not passive, unthinking and self-annihilating, crushed and repressed. The true servant understands the situation and finds a solution. Such a ‘slave’ is in fact free, and gives freedom to his ‘lord’, for he discovers ways in which his lord might bring happiness to those for whom the lord is responsible.
Jesus contrasts such a servant with the “so-called masters who make their authority felt”. These are in fact enslaved. They think of their own needs and passions, their whims and ambitions. They fear the loss of power or possession.
Jesus has turned things upside down. The slave is free and the “so-called masters” are constrained.
Morality means perceiving the needs of others and satisfying them. This greatness of heart leads to an expansion of the mind. For the omnipotent One is servant and slave, and Jesus cannot be satisfied except by service. He serves himself in serving others. Jesus is not so much the universal lord as the universal servant.
B, Sunday 29 Excellence
“Allow us to sit one at your right hand and the other at your left in your glory.” Mk 10: 37.
James and John want the best, the most powerful positions; they want to be at the left and right hand of Jesus at the banquet. They have the self-confidence of youth.
Jesus does not dampen their ambition but shows them how to achieve it. Indeed, he wants them to be first, to spearhead evolution and reach the fullest potential of the human race, but in the manner that is truly effective. He gives them the chance to be universal, not limited to some banqueting hall.
They wish to be at his side; very well, let them drink his cup also! Let them know his shame and glory, his humiliation and ascendancy. If they wish to achieve excellence, they must know good and evil, the height and the depth. If they are to have authority over heaven and earth, they must know human suffering as well as divine glory.
By drinking the cup of the Lord’s sorrow they are made able to drink cup after cup of sorrow, the one drink giving courage and appetite for another. When people pour out their sorrow, to drink of that; the vicious outpourings of the wicked, the rivers of blood, the whole sewer of human life: to drink of these cups and to absorb them; the cups of poison that people hand to each other: to drink of these and to free the earth from them – this is the excellence.
To drink the wine of joy, the outpouring of love and passion, the rivers of happiness: – to drink of this too. Then they will acquire the mind of God to whom nothing is hidden.
This cup is offered to every one in Eucharist, this blood of the Lord, with all his history and experience. This cup is the entry point into other worlds, other universes, for where the Word is there we are also. Only if Jesus is really present, here in the cup, can we be really present everywhere. Where the blood is, there we are, in body and blood.
B, Sunday 30 Conscience
“Master, let me see again.” Mk 10:51.
Knowledge comes through science. Morality comes from con-science. It is one thing to know, quite another to know what is to be done or not done. The first sight comes from without, but the second sight comes from within. Conscience is a second sight. Motivation is passed in review, and brought into order. Conscience brings peace; to disobey conscience is to enter into turmoil. To join the two forms of knowledge – science and conscience – is to be integrated and at one.
Conscience can be informed or deformed. If values are distorted, a person may feel guilty without really being so, or not guilty when they really are. They are indoctrinated, not educated.
To follow the wisdom of others is right, when the master is wise and the disciple is still unsure. The time will come, however, when disciples must find out for themselves and act on the basis of their own conscience. It is a lonely path, a tremendous responsibility.
There is the third sight. Conscience itself is based on consciousness. The knowledge of the mind of God is a higher knowledge. We may well say ‘let us see again’ and return to the knowledge from which we came and which is hidden within.
But there is the highest knowledge, which comes from grace. The world springs from the creative mind of God but redemption comes from divine mercy. When this sight is given we are taken into an altogether new dimension.
The blind man asked that his original sight be restored. He imagined he would once again see wife and children, the beauty of the landscape and the glory of the temple. But a sight is given that he had not requested; he sees Jesus whom he could never have imagined and follows him along the road.
Bartimaeus knows the intensity of divine love. He can now truly assess what is to be done. The light of grace informs his every other form of knowledge.
Does he proceed on the way to Jerusalem and see the light fade from the eyes of Jesus who restored his sight? Was he given back his sight so that he might see the horrible beauty of the cross? Whoever comes to grace will recognize it in the crucifixion and above all in the resurrection, when the angel says ‘See he is not here’.
B, Sunday 30 Formation
“Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has saved you.” And immediately his sight returned and he followed him along the road.” Mk 10:52.
The blind Bartimaeus sits at the edge of the road and at the edge of life, disempowered, imprisoned in a world of darkness. Yet he is freer than those who stand around, for they are merely curious. He, by contrast, knows. He cries out “Son of David, Jesus” and when they scold him for using such language he cries out even more loudly, “Jesus, Master”. His eyes are blind but his spirit is sighted. Jesus acknowledges this fact, for he acclaims, “Your faith has saved you”.
Passion and ambition, callousness and delusion deform the soul. Morality is inculcated by sound formation, but its firmer foundation is the inner light that only the Spirit can give. The Gospel must be preached; there must be instruction in values, but it is only that surprising gift that is the ultimate basis of morality.
Bartimeaus has heard the sound of Jesus’ voice even if he has not understood the words. The gift of grace floods into him and evokes in him the knowledge of the Word, and so he can respond with the cry of his own voice, “Have pity on me”. Both Word and Spirit form him and so he can speak and cause the Master to summon him. He jumps up and makes his request. He sees again and follows Jesus along the way that leads to the ultimate sight: Jesus on the cross, the sight of utter goodness. His formation is complete when he sees that beauteous horror.
B, Sunday 31 Norms
“Which is the first of all the commandments?” Mk 12:28.
Jesus is asked: ‘What is commanded?’ He does not set out laws and regulations in reply. Rather, he enjoins right relationship: towards God, towards others, towards oneself, and the quality of the relationship is to be love.
There is indeed command, for a greater will at work: the divine will. There is, therefore, judgment and sanction as well. The one who does not love will not go unpunished. Their refusal to love entails being refused love in return and so to be destroyed, for life begins with love and ends in love. It is the only law that can be universal, the only command that can touch every dimension of being. It is the basis of all morality.
Whatever comes from love and leads to love is of God. All the rest is commentary. Jurisprudence has its place but only love can guide through to the end, for God is Love, not law. The love of God is the criterion for every love.
To “love God with all one’s heart and soul” and “to love one’s neighbour as oneself” is the most demanding of laws, for it requires sensitivity of conscience or rather that sensitivity of love that informs soul and spirit. Mind and heart are involved, every passion, thought and desire.
It is a love in relationship and in that sense relative. The focus is on both the self and the other, not as separate but as one. As we wish food, education, good health and justice for ourselves, to that same extent we wish them for our neighbour. A whole program of social justice is involved here.
Relativism is narcissistic. Relationship involves responsibility. It means turning to one’s neighbour and saying ‘you are my very self.’ ‘What is done to you is done to me.’ ‘The good I want for myself I also seek for you, if such is your wish.’
Love goes beyond mere affection and comes to the very heart of reality, for it finally becomes clear that God is Love and all is destined to become Love. There will be love above and below, love before and behind, love within and without. What is not of love is nothing. Then the heart will be overwhelmed in wonder and reach that consciousness which is the very heart of reality, the God who is Love. Ultimately there is nothing but Love.
B, Sunday 31 Teleology
“You shall love the Lord your God, …. You must love your neighbour as yourself.” Mk 12:30-31.
What is commanded, what is needed, what is the purpose, what is pleasing, what justifies and perfects? “What is the first commandment of the Law”? That is the question.
Jesus replies in all simplicity: “Love”. It is the origin of all and the end of all, for the end is in the beginning and the beginning is in the end.
Evolution is governed by love. Whatever opens up the fountains of love is seized by creation and held and communicated to later generations. The formation of plant life, of animal sensation and human intelligence, of language and art and society, the development of law and the discoveries of science: all these spring from a perception of love and are designed to lead to a fuller love.
Love is not an idea but a relationship: “your God”, “your neighbour”, “your self”. Right relationship is at the heart, not idea or possession or ritual or Sabbath or holocaust or Temple. Only love can satisfy the soul and lead to peace. Only love can plumb the depths. There is no reaching the end point, no sense of completion and climax if not in love.
Love is experienced and cannot be fully described. Poets and artists have again and again tried to give some expression of the inexpressible. To this experience we say, ‘Yes, let it come again in an eternal return’, for love is of eternity. Love alone is capable of being endlessly satisfying, love opening onto love, love leading to love, to an ever greater experience as we journey along the path into the infinite. There is no end to the experience, ever more intense and full and wide and open.
What is the purpose of life? It is simply love; love at the beginning and at the end.
B, Sunday 32 Survival
“… she from the little she had has put everything she possessed, all she had to live on.” Mk 12:44.
What did she see, the old widow, after she had put in her two small coins, all she had to live on? She had no money, no husband, no stretch of years before her. She turned away and now she stares into the void. How could she survive? She intended to have nothing, to be nothing, to depend on nothing. What passionate wholeheartedness in the little old lady!
Her tiny donation surpasses the lavish giving of the rich and even the sacrifices of the Temple. In fact it foretells the sacrifice of Jesus who will pour out his blood and enter into the desolation of the tomb.
With her mind the same as that in Christ Jesus, her every act is sacrifice, her every word is scripture, her whole life is prayer, as was his.
She could see no future but she could be seen. Jesus notes her act, which is now told every year in every land. Her whole life is treasured by the One from whom she came and to whom she was returning. His treasuring is her immortality.
B, Sunday 32 Presumption
“… she from the little she had has put everything she possessed, all she had to live on.” Mk 12:44.
The widow puts two small coins into the Treasury of the Temple, all that she has. Her gift has no practical value but she has the folly of love and the recklessness of trust. She knows her act is right but can give no reason. She knows she will be blessed but does not know how. She makes her small donation and hurries away, a little old lady unaware of her greatness, for she has the confidence of faith and the wisdom of the heart. She has the presumption of those who have the mind of God, unhesitating and fearless. In this insignificant woman, the Spirit of God has been richly poured. It is given to her to be able to give her all.
B, Sunday 33 Anointing
“And then will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds with great power and glory.” Mk 13:26.
Jesus rejoices in his vitality, for he has the joy of the eternal God and his very nature is divine. From him all things were made and to him all are destined. He knows his strength. Purity of motivation gives him a vigour nothing can overcome. He enters into the joy of the joyful and into the sorrow of the sorrowful, for he shares the human condition. He joins all, without regard to age or beauty, and finds pleasure in them. He allows himself to be broken and joins with those whose bodies collapse. He has no dignity as he hangs in death. He goes beyond death and discovers the very heart of things, heart speaking to heart.
What is true of the Christ is to be true also of the whole Church and of each individual member of the Church.
The Church leaves to doctors the treatment of the illness, for the Church as such has no medical knowledge. But the Church has the vitality of its Lord and joins the sick in their debility. We join the wasted and impart to them the vitality that comes from heaven itself. We enjoy being a source of vitality and energy, of enthusiasm and liberation. By placing our hands on them and placing the oil on their bodies, we enter into their illness, and without regard to age or condition, bring health and healing, vitality and the unleashing of hidden resources, the wave of pleasure. We find the beauty of their soul enlightened by the Spirit, for the Sacrament of Anointing is given to these who have been moved by the light of the Spirit. We rejoice to be of value. We break down the barriers which illness puts in the way of the surge of joy. We rejoice as the young man rejoices to find his bride and to bring her joy and take her to himself and to move with her into love. The Anointing of the Sick is a dialogue of love, a healing movement that brings all to completion.
B, Sunday 33 Age
“In those days, after the time of distress, the sun will be darkened, the moon will lose its brightness, the stars will coming falling from heaven and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.” Mk 13:24-25.
The sun and moon lose their light and the stars fall out of the sky. The world is collapsing, just as in old age the eyes grow dim and it hurts to move. And we become afraid. What will happen to us?
The call goes out, “The Son of Man is coming!” The fig tree puts forth its blossom and the twigs grow supple. Spring is come, the time of youth and happiness. Again, the call goes out “He is here at the very gates!”
Both youth and age are times of transition, for we are tied to neither. There is a time to be young and a time to be old, to be well and to be sick. Old age is the time for reviewing life and discovering what we have been and what we shall be, saying ‘Yes, this have I been; this is my heart of hearts; thus shall I be reborn eternally.’ It is the time to hear the words, “Well done … enter into your master’s happiness.”
B, Christ the King Jesus the Judge
“Yes, I am a king. I was born for this; I came into the world for this: to witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice.” Jn 19:37.
Pilate the judge stands before Jesus his judge, and asks ‘What is truth?’ He is unable to see the evidence before him, Jesus the Truth.
Jesus is the judge. He is true to his God and to himself, to his disciples and the whole of creation. He stands in right relationship with the One who sent him and with those to whom he is sent. He has a just estimation of the value of things since all proceed from him and he identifies himself with all.
There is no abstraction, no idea by which Jesus would judge. He is both judge and the criterion of judgment. Only truth can truly see sin, for sin is blind to itself. Only truth is aware of both truth and sin, and can assess both. His truth destroys and preserves, burns and heals. He perceives all and understands all.
Jesus sees. He has known honour and humiliation, ignorance and knowledge, every height and depth. He is weak with the weak and strong with the strong. He who is truth becomes sin and lie. Out of compassion he enters into ignorance and weakness, and stands by those who live in ignorance. Jesus becomes judge by becoming sin. He takes the sinner out of his sin by changing the nature of the sin, turning it into a moment of grace. Jesus is the truthfulness of God who is faithful to his people and faithful to those who are not of his people.
Pilate does not understand yet at the same time he does seem to understand for deep within himself he trembles before his judge and seeks to free him.
Jesus is the voice of God and the Gospel is the voice of Jesus. All who are on the side of truth will hear the Gospel and listen to the voice of Jesus. The Gospel and the words Jesus has spoken are the judgment on this world.
The disciples who listen to the Gospel become the Gospel. Those who hear the Voice become the voice of God. They can assess all that is. Those who are spiritual are judges of the whole earth.
B, Christ the King Resurrection
“So you are a king then?” said Pilate.” Jn 18:7.
Pilate is seated; Jesus stands. Pilate has the power to release or condemn in time but Jesus is the Lord of the living and the dead, for he is the Supreme Word. Pilate has political authority but Jesus has universal power. He is able to take on life and death, indeed to give purpose to life and value to death. He can enter into fear and ignorance and yet retain his hidden strength in peacefulness. He does not re-animate the dead or prolong human existence indefinitely but leads into another dimension, beyond time and space.
Infinitely alive, he is the resurrection. Wherever he turns his eyes, that person lives with infinite life.