Sunday Reflection with Fr Robin Gibbons - 19 January 2020

Isenheim Altar

Isenheim Altar

Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

There comes a moment in every disciple of Jesus' life when this happens, we meet Jesus in a way that challenges us to enter into a deeper connection with him, it comes in a variety of ways and circumstances, but it is a moment that we either take, or as also happens, ignore. Here is how this happened to the Baptist: 'John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said: "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world'. (Jn 1:29)

It is quite clear that at this point John is not sure who exactly the young carpenter of Nazareth is, 'I did not know him' (Jn 1:31a), but somehow he follows his own journey, that of the `prophet who has been called to prepare the way for the Lord to come, and being truly obedient to the call of God, he hears the voice of the Most High and sees the Spirit's transforming power at work. His eyes of sight and the inner eye of his faith are opened!

'John testified further, saying, "I saw the Spirit come down like a dove* from the sky and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, 'On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.' Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God." (Jn 1:32-34)

You might ask, 'will this recognition of Christ ever happen to me?' The answer is clear, it will, but you are the one who will have to discern that encounter and prepare for it, and if you want to know where the Lord will meet you, listen to him telling us the answer to that question, 'when did we meet you?' 'For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.'(Mt 25:35,36) So there it is, the encounter with Christ is through those who call on our love and compassion. Of course it doesn't only extend to the human condition, as St Francis and others remind us, we can discern the Son of God in our love of all creatures, nevertheless when that last judgement comes, that is the question asked of us, did you meet me, did you recognise me?

It is a vexed question because we cannot prepare the answer now, it only comes through the lives we live, the faith we grow into, the loves we share, the forgiveness offered and received. It is as St Maria of Paris often said, 'the question I shall be asked at Judgement is not how often have I prayed, or whether I did things correctly, but did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome the stranger. That is all I shall be asked!'

It is worthwhile reminding ourselves of this when we see the scandalous battles in press and media purporting to come from zealous faithful Christians, attacking those who do not agree with them. This poison of actively sowing disunity between good people is a reflection of the wider disunity of the Christian family and beyond. That is why this Unity Week we pray that all may be one, not as a far off dream, but because the disciples of Jesus have work to do, especially in combatting anything that would destroy our world. The way to true unity is to recognise that the `Lord `Christ reaches out to any who want Him, and comes in a variety of disguises, none of them doctrinal, but all of them life changing. Think of John the Baptist suddenly realising who Jesus was, and think of yourself, have you encountered the Lord, are you open to the Spirit? 'Truly if you did it to one of the least of my brothers or sisters you did it to me'. (Mt 25:40)

Reflections for the week

From Saint Maria of Paris

Died in Ravensbruck March 31 1945

'The way to God lies through love of people. At the Last Judgment I shall not be asked whether I was successful in my ascetic exercises, nor how many bows and prostrations I made. Instead I shall be asked did I feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoners. That is all I shall be asked. About every poor, hungry and imprisoned person the Saviour says 'I': 'I was hungry and thirsty, I was sick and in prison.' To think that he puts an equal sign between himself and anyone in need. . . . I always knew it, but now it has somehow penetrated to my sinews. It fills me with awe'.

For Christian Unity

Homily on Pentecost 1944 in Turkey

Given by the then Angelo Roncalli, later Pope John XXIII

'"Here, we Latin Catholics of Istanbul and Catholics of Armenia, Greece, Chaldean, Syrian rite - we are a modest minority living on the surface of a vast world we are just superficially in touch with. We love to distinguish ourselves from those who do not profess our faith, from the Orthodox, Protestants, Jews, Muslims, believers or non-believers."

…even if "diversity of race, language, education, painful contrasts of a sad past keep us in reciprocal distance, in the light of the Gospel … Christ has come to tear the walls down; he died to proclaim our universal brotherhood; the central focus of his teaching is the love that links every man to him as the first of brothers, and that links him with us to the Father."

Tags: Sunday Reflection with Fr Robin Gibbons, 19 January 2020

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