17B – Season of the Year – John 6:1-15
This year we have been reading from the Gospel of Mark. Last week we had the story of Jesus and the disciples crossing over the lake and coming to find a large crowd of people, which he set out to teach at some length. Rather than continuing the story from Mark, we interrupt the story and change to have an extended reading from the Gospel of John, so that we have his unique perspective. John’s gospel was written much later than the other gospels, probably late in the first century. You have this deeply reflective, theological and spiritual understanding of Jesus and the mysteries of the Church. One of the curiosities of John’s Gospel is that when you go to the Last Supper with John, there is no mention of Jesus blessing the bread; of Jesus taking the cup and telling the disciples that this is my blood. We can wonder – why aren’t what we call the Institution Narratives – the story of the institution of the Eucharist mentioned in John’s Gospel? It is because it is here, in this sixth chapter of St John. I invite you as we journey through this magnificent chapter over the next five weeks to take the time to prayerfully and slowly read through the chapter. Take the time to ponder these majestic words and allow them to sink deeply into our spirit.
16th Sunday in ordinary time – Year B.
Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34.
In order to understand our first reading from the prophet Jeremiah today, we need to understand what has been happening in the history and practice of Israel. We need to go back a few hundred years. When the people of Israel first left the slavery of Egypt, and they moved to the Promised Land and began to settle there the Lord himself was their leader; he was their guide. For the first few generations, the Israelites had a series of leaders called Judges, which we read about in the book of Joshua and Judges. There came a time however, when the leaders of the people came to Samuel and asked him to let them have a King like all the other nations had. This of course should give us cause to pause. Israel was called to be different from all the other nations – not to be just like them. God wanted Israel to be unlike all the other nations around them. He wanted them to uphold justice and truth and virtue. He wanted them to be his people and to image him in the world.
15th Sunday – Year B – The view from on high (Ephesians 1:3-14)
I am going on holidays in the middle of August to the United States. I haven’t been there before, so I have been looking around at various maps, trying to work out my itinerary. I have been using Google Maps to work out how to get to the places that I want to visit – like Denver to visit some of the pilgrims who stayed in our parish last year during WYD – and Toronto and Steubenville to visit friends. With these maps I can get an overview of the whole country to see where places are in relation to one another, but also to zoom in to see a place in a little more detail and to see the lay of the land. I don’t think that I am alone in wanting to do this – everywhere you go, whenever you find an accessible high place, our ancestors have so often built a lookout there so that you can see where things are in relation to one another. How many of you have been up Cambewarra Mountain to see the vista of the Shoalhaven; or visited Mount Ainslie in Canberra; Mount Wellington in Hobart; Mount Coo-tha in Brisbane; or No (One) Tree Hill in Auckland? If you do you can begin to see the way that the city works and functions and the way that it all connects together.
14th Sunday in Ordinary time (2 Cor 12:7-10).
One of the interesting things is that when you read the stories of some of the great saints across the pages of history, almost inevitably when you go through their story you come across some great shadow or darkness that hung over their lives. For example when the diary of Blessed Teresa or Calcutta came to life after her death, we have seem that for so much of her life, Teresa struggled simply to believe. Even though she was so widely acclaimed as a living saint; even though she was in such demand to address the United Nations, Presidents and royalty; even though her work amongst the poorest of the poor in India was so highly valued – she struggled at times simply to acknowledge the existence of God. Other saints also – like St Therese of Lisieux – went through this great period of darkness, where she couldn’t pray or believe. She found it impossible to get through the thick cloud that surrounded her.
And yet these saints continued – like so many others who are afflicted with grief, who experience physical illnesses or disease, trials and turmoil, who are in the depths of sadness and suffering because of the loss of a child or a loved one. Whatever it is, the thing that marks their greatness – is not the particular tragedy – but the way that they deal with that; the way that they find life through that tragedy – in the midst of that tragedy and darkness.