First Sunday of Advent

My memory of school-day chemistry is not extensive.

However, I remember one principle in chemistry.

Sometimes, two elements lie side by side inside a test tube and do not unite until there is sufficient heat to bring them to a high enough temperature where unity can take place.

That is a wonderful metaphor for Advent.

Advent is about getting in touch with our longing.

It is about letting our yearnings raise our “psychic temperature” (to use a phrase from Pierre Teilhard de Chardin sj) so that we are pushed to eventually let down our guard, hope in new ways, and risk intimacy.

St John of the Cross (in his book “Living Flame of Love”) has a similar image.

Intimacy with God and with each other will only take place, when we reach a certain kindling temperature.

For too much of our lives, he suggests, we lie around as damp, green logs inside the fire of love, waiting to come to flame but never bursting into flame because of our dampness.

However, before we can burst into flame, we must first dry out and come to a kindling temperature.

We do that as does a damp log inside a fire, by first sizzling for a long time in the flames so as to dry out.

How do we sizzle psychologically and spiritually?

For St John of the Cross, we do that through the pain of loneliness, restlessness, disquiet, anxiety, frustration, and unrequited desire.

In the torment of incompleteness, our psychic temperature rises so that eventually, we come to kindling temperature and there, we finally open ourselves to union in new ways.

Advent is about longing, about getting in touch with longing, about heightening it, about letting it raise our psychic temperature.

It’s about sizzling as damp, green logs inside the fires of intimacy, about intuiting the kingdom of God by seeing through desire, what the world might look like if a Messiah were to come and, with us, establish justice, peace, and unity on this earth.

The Latin root of the familiar word ‘Advent’ is veni.

Veni speaks of ‘coming’, the coming of Christ.

However, it might also cause us to reflect on our own ‘coming’, our coming ‘awake’.

Being overly taken up with a newborn babe lying amongst the straw and being gazed upon by Mary, Joseph, shepherds and, yes, even the errant cattle beast, might well distract us from our own work – namely, our awakening to the God within me.

Advent is a time for not only gazing outward, rather also inward until we sizzle and burst into flame.

Christ the King

Have you noticed?

The shops are a little noisier, Christmas music is playing gently in the background, tinsel and glitter have begun to appear, and the so-called ‘Christmas specials’ are in the front windows to entice us in!

The end of the calendar year approaches, and so too does our liturgical year and we again proclaim (Luke  25: 35 – 43) “Christ the King”

Yet we have a picture of a beaten, bloodied, bedraggled, broken and naked man hanging in despairing human agony, nailed to a tree!

Christ the King? What is our liturgy playing at?

Cast your mind back to the recent funeral liturgy for Queen Elizabeth II, such a  sombre and sedate liturgy, as ought to be for a deceased monarch.

However, people were still dressed in their most ‘glamourous’ mourning attire.

And, on the sanctuary there was still red and crimson on display, the choir was robed in their cathedral-best choir dress and they sang with beauty and energy.

A colourful bouquet of flowers was left at both her London and Scottish homes.

Hours of preparation were involved in the Queen’s funeral liturgy.

The late Queen’s death, while sombre, had colour to it.

She was interred in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle and where her remains will stay with a beautiful marble plaque placed on top.

The difference between the two is unmistakable.

One, for 70 years, we called ‘Queen’, the other, for some 2000 years and counting we have call ‘King’.

However, if by chance, you go looking for the remains of “our King”, all you will find is an empty cross, and a vacant tomb with a stone rolled away.

The illustration is titled ‘The Crucifixion’ by the American artist Edward Knippers

Thirty-second Sunday of Ordinary Time

Our Gospel for this Sunday begins with a question, “Some Sadducees, those who say there is no resurrection, came to him and asked him a question (Lk. 26: 27 -28).

When the Sadducees posed their question about the status (in the next life) of the woman who was married in this life to seven brothers, they were only making fun of the belief in a next life.

No Rabbi had ever brought a ‘proof’ of it from the first five books of the Scriptures (the only ones that the Sadducees accepted).

But in Jesus they met, for the first time, a Rabbi who did!

Reading again from v. 37: “Moses himself showed it to be true…” (Moses was considered the author of the first five books).

If there are no questions, there are no real doors opening.

The German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860), was walking along a street in Dresden one day, seeking answers to questions that bothered him.

Passing by a garden, he decided to sit down and look at the flowers.

The owner was suspicious and called the police.

A policeman arrived and asked him, ‘Who are you?’

Schopenhauer paused and said, ‘If you can help me find the answer to that question, I will be eternally grateful to you!’

The Austrian poet and novelist Rainer Maria Rilke ( 1875 – 1926) was being pestered by a young man who kept sending him copies of his (the young man’s) poems and asking Rilke whether he was good enough to pursue his poetry ideal.

In a letter to him, Rilke writes, “I would like to beg you, dear Sir, as well as I can, to have patience with everything unresolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves as if they were locked rooms or books written in a very foreign language.

“Don’t search for the answers, which could not be given to you now, because you would not be able to live them.

“And the point is to live everything.

“Live the questions now.

“Perhaps then, someday far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.”  ( from  Letter to a Young Poet )

Many of us seek the surety of the answer – an answer brings resolution, security, some interior calm, and of course, the ability to move on!

If there are no real questions, there are no real doors opening; try to ‘live the questions now, to love the questions’



All Saints day

All saints day; stained glass window
Photo was taken at Sacred Heart Parish, Reefton, New Zealand.

Billy O’Leary was seven and lived in a very small village miles from anywhere and anyone.

The village had a general store which sold just about everything, a small school, and a small Church.

Billy’s father was the teacher at the school, the only teacher, so Billy used to say his father was the Headteacher.

One day, Billy’s father had to travel to the city for business reasons and invited Billy to travel with him.

Billy was excited for two reasons; he had heard his parents talk of the city and yet had no idea where it was, and second, it meant travelling on the train, which Billy had never done.

The day arrived, and Billy presented himself at breakfast in his Sunday best. He and his father walked to the train station and duly caught the train.

Billy sat by the window and watched cows and sheep and corn and maize go whizzing by.

When his father had finished his business, he asked Billy if there were anything he would like to do.

Now, back at school, Billy, Fr O’Grady from the Church had talked to the class about St Brendan’s Cathedral and had shown pictures of St Brendan’s Cathedral, which was here in this city, and so he asked his father whether they could go and have a look inside.

So off they went.

Now St Brendan’s was a very, very, very old cathedral, built when in some countries there was still kings and queens and princes and princesses and knights in armour and ladies in waiting.

Inside, the cathedral was dark, cold and kind of spooky.

Billy was a little bit scared, and a shiver ran through is body, so Billy held his father’s hand tight as they walked around.

The walls inside were very high, and right at the top there were stained glass windows all the way around.

Each window had a saint’s name.

Some Billy knew; St Patrick, of course, the twelve apostles, and St Brendan.

Others he had never heard of, like St Finbar, St Brigid and St Cairan.

As he walked around looking at all the windows, an amazing thing happened.

Outside, the clouds broke, and the sun streamed through the stained-glass windows, and suddenly the inside of the church was bathed in light.

Billy let go of his father’s hand and walked confidently on his own.

The following day at school, Fr O’Grady from the town Church came to the school to prepare the children for the coming feast of All Saints.

He began by asking the children, “Does anyone know what a saint is?”

Up shot Billy’s hand, and he waved it about with enthusiasm.

Fr O’Grady could not help but notice the enthusiastic waving, and besides, there was no other hand raised seeking the priest’s attention.

“Yes, Billy do you know what a saint is? Tell us now.”

“Father,” spoke Billy with confidence, “it is someone who lets the sun in and lights up the whole Church.”


(If you want to you may spell the word either sun or Son!!)