14th March 2021: Fourth Sunday of Lent. Into the light.
Today, the ‘middle’ Sunday of Lent, is known as Laetare Sunday. 'Laetare' means ‘Rejoice!’ We tend not to think of Lent as a time to rejoice, but signs of joy are central at Mass today, such as the use of flowers on the altar and rose-coloured vestments for the priest instead of the usual Lenten purple. The shadow of the cross still looms large, but we look forward with hope to Easter, when light will conquer the darkness.
We are offered an opportunity today to pause and reflect on our Lenten journey. In our gospel we hear that ‘the [person] who lives by the truth comes out into the light’. On the other hand, Jesus says that those who ‘prefer darkness to the light’ live in fear that their actions will be exposed.
We hear a lot of talk these days about transparency. We have seen the damage caused by those whose private actions gravely contradict the message they proclaim in the public sphere. Some questions we might ask ourselves this Lent are: Am I living a truthful life ‘in the light’? Am I honest in my dealings with others, trying always to choose what is right and just, or are there things I do in secret that are unkind or dishonest? Am I attentive to the needs of others or am I more inclined to think of myself? Lent offers us the opportunity to step out into the light, to allow the light of Jesus to sweep away any darkness or destructive habits and to begin again.
‘We proclaim the resurrection of Christ when his light illuminates the dark moments of our existence, and we are able share it with others; when we know when to smile with those who smile, and weep with those who weep; when we accompany those who are sad and at risk of losing hope; when we recount our experience of faith to those who are searching for meaning and happiness… and there – with our attitude, with our witness, with our life – we say ‘Jesus is Risen,’ with our soul.’ (Pope Francis)
© Triona Doherty, The Deep End, Intercom Magazine, Veritas, Dublin.
14th February 2021: ‘He stretched out his hand…’
Jesus, in today’s Gospel, cures a leper by the healing touch of his hand. A leper was completely outcasted from society due to the huge stigma surrounding the disease, which was highly contagious but was also seen as a punishment from God in Jesus’ time. Jesus is moved with pity for this man and reaches out to him. Jesus sends the man to the priests, as a testimony to them. Jesus’ ‘pity’ also conveys anger at the leper’s situation. It is the religious hierarchy of Jesus’ time who have alienated this man. What they are incapable of doing (healing him), Jesus has done by ‘stretching out his hand’ in love.
A question for us from this Gospel today might be, who are those our society outcast? Who is alienated in our communities? What moves you with pity? Who is it that we need to reach out to at this time?
Jesus, in Mark’s Gospel, is forever asking people to keep quiet and not tell anyone about what he does. Yet, after such a radical encounter with God which frees this man from all that keeps him trapped, of course he wants to shout from the roof tops. Why would Jesus want his miracles to be kept a secret? Jesus wants to be able to fulfil his mission without attracting the wrong kind of attention. Eventually those who are against him will use encounters like this one to compile evidence against him. For now, the less they know the better. We might think today of those who bravely speak out, even if it means they are punished in some way. May all of us have the courage, like the man who is healed in the Gospel today, to proclaim the truth, even if it costs us.
‘There is a need for paths of peace to heal open wounds. There is also a need for peacemakers, men and women prepared to work boldly and creatively to initiate processes of healing and renewed encounter.’
(Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, 225)
Jane Mellett, The Deep End, Intercom Magazine, Veritas.
7th February 2021: Jesus the Healer
In today’s Gospel we read about Jesus’ first healing in Mark’s Gospel. Jesus hears of the illness of the mother of Simon’s wife and goes to her. Due to the purity laws of his time this scene would have been considered controversial. His first healing is of a woman and we are told that he touches her, raises her up; he completely restores her to health. Many of his actions here would have been considered inappropriate.
The ‘whole city’ was crowded around the door as many people wanted to be healed. What a commotion! Jesus, very early on in his ministry is clearly a very popular and attractive figure. Another important aspect of this story is that Jesus does not remain comfortable in this house. He keeps moving, keeps going outward. This requires so much energy and an outpouring of love for those in need. Jesus shows us in today’s Gospel what it takes to stay energised for our various ministries: quiet time and space for real encounter with God. Even then, the people hunted for him and said, ‘Everyone is searching for you’, and still today, everyone is searching.
We too are called to bring healing to others in any way that we can, to those who are seeking, those who are lost, those who are isolated. Jesus shows us that to do this we must be connected to that Divine Presence within us and in our world. Today we can ask ourselves, what do I need healing from? Bring this to Jesus in prayer. And also, how can I reach out, with a healing presence, to others, especially during this time of pandemic?
‘I ask God to prepare our hearts to encounter our brothers and sisters, so that we may overcome our differences rooted in political thinking, language, culture and religion. Let us ask him to anoint our whole being with the balm of his mercy, which heals the injuries caused by mistakes, misunderstandings, and disputes. And let us ask him for the grace to send us forth, in humility and meekness, along the demanding but enriching path of seeking peace’. (Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, 254)
Jane Mellett, The Deep End, Intercom Magazine, Veritas.
Sunday 31st January 2021: Genuine Authority.
‘But man, proud man,
Dress’d in a little brief authority,
Most ignorant of what he’s most assur’d…’
Measure for Measure –
We probably wouldn’t have to think too hard to come with examples of people who seem to fit the above description. Puffed up with a sense of their own importance, they are anxious to be seen as the expert on everything, in spite of limited knowledge or experience. We tend to criticise politicians and other public figures if we feel they are blind to the struggles of ordinary people. They don’t know what it’s like, to example, to live on a minimum wage, to care for a family member with a disability, or to be at risk of homelessness. On the other hand, it is refreshing when those in power have either faced some of these issues themselves or have made the effort to do some research and really listen to people. We can tell when someone is speaking with genuine authority, care and compassion.
In today’s gospel, those who listen to Jesus’ teaching in the synagogue know there is something different and exciting about him. His teaching is in sharp contrast to the scribes they are used to hearing, and makes a deep impression on them. The difference, as stated twice in this passage, is his authority and it leaves his audience ‘astonished’. He does not use his position the way we might use our ‘little brief authority’ to make ourselves look good. Instead he uses his authority to serve, to love, and to bring mercy and freedom.
© Triona Doherty, Email , The Deep End, Intercom Magazine, Veritas