Sunday Reflection with Fr. Robin Gibbons – May 23, 2022
Sixth Sunday of Easter –
Recently I got involved with an online group which due to various disabilities feel unable to worship in a public space and throughout Covid has evolved into a real and very important online prayer ministry, of worship and sharing. It is something many of us have found a lifeline to during this time of intense isolation, but now the fact that we can return, albeit cautiously, to communal worship, does not negate their ministry and their mission, far from it, many who connect to this have also been seriously hurt in their life of faith. Like many of you, I was fine during the lockdown, but isolated from my own faith community, so turning to the practices of monastic life, I tapped into them to give me the nourishment I needed. Yes, I felt supported, but I also participated in online worship.
I am a regular part of what Notre Dame Cathedral calls its viewers, and consider their parish online, we are invited to connect and this in turn makes us feel connected in many different ways. I often “attend” the Vespers sung daily and I can participate in them thanks to their online file system for the Offices and the Daily Masses! This discovery of the web, computers and the media as a means of commitment for the good and for the faith cannot be ruled out. This in no way takes away this community need for the “Assembly” in the liturgy, but it does call us to rediscover the old and forgotten aspects of our domestic Christian life, agape, blessings, prayers in the house, feasts celebrated with a meal special and perhaps a reading, the context of fasting and feasting and love of Scripture! I just wonder, as I sense a deeper movement in faith communities, and I have to ask if these aren’t the true promptings of the Holy Spirit, the one that John asks Jesus to tell us “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send my name – he will teach you everything and remind you of everything [I] I told you that. (Jn 14,26) Doesn’t remembering always imply the same way?
In a way I am a firm believer that Covid has and will have a transformative role in the world, it is still with us, Long Covid and its continuing effects show that in many people’s lives (I still suffer from it), but as an extraordinary video in Italian titled, a letter from Covid19 put it in the voice of Covid (I’m paraphrasing here), “when I’m gone, you must remember why I was here, learn from me to enjoy things simple things in life, every day, fresh air, friendship, nature, take nothing for granted, take care of each other and your earth”. things will fall on us. So for me, Covid has been a wake-up call, a dark angel calling us to radical change!
I know that I cannot go back to where I was before, because our world has changed and we can feel the instabilities and uncertainties of this fragility around us. So, as we head into Pentecost, it is imperative that the Church itself does not quell the Spirit that draws us, impels us, and impels us to new things. In a sense, just as this early community had to make the momentous decision to deal with the gentiles and profoundly abandon certain parts of the law, such as forbidden food now permitted, circumcision abandoned, blood sacrifice forbidden. These were not made lightly or without synodal debate and discernment, but it was the Spirit they invoked for help and it was through the Spirit that they made known these Decisions: “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to burden you beyond these necessities” (Acts 15:28)
From where each of us stands, can we see a call for new things, new ways of doing things, old and loved ways renewed, sustained and loved rather than being used as a rigid set of observances to which just obey? Our second reading puts before us a new heaven and a new earth, but also this City of New Jerusalem our destiny, our final home which must be the desire of each one of us.
There worship does not need a temple or community space because everything is holy and in this holiness the Glory of God shines:’
The city needed neither sun nor moon to light it,
for the glory of God has enlightened her,
and his lamp was the Lamb. (Rev 21:23)
But we are still on the journey and I recommend any path forward that allows us to bridge the gaps between others, to heal the brokenness of our land and its inhabitants. Jesus puts us again on the Gospel plate the path we must follow, the Advocate will help us, and it is my prayer for all of us, that we really learn to love and ask this Spirit to allow us, for we do it for and with the love which is God:
‘I leave you alone; my peace I give you.
I don’t give it to you like the world gives it to you.
Do not let your hearts be troubled or be dismayed.” (Jn14:27)
Aelred de Rievaulx
The mirror of love
“If someone wants to love himself, he must not allow himself to be corrupted by indulging his sinful nature. If he wants to resist the promptings of his sinful nature, he must enlarge the whole horizon of his love to contemplate the Moreover, if he wants to savor the joy of brotherly love with more perfection and delight, he must extend even to his enemies the embrace of true love.
But if he wants to prevent this fire of divine love from cooling because of the insults received, let him keep the eyes of his soul always fixed on the serene patience of his beloved Lord and Saviour”.
The shape of the Church to come
“Our present situation is one of transition from a Church supported by a homogeneous Christian society…to a Church made up of those who have struggled against their environment to come to a decision of faith personally clearly and explicitly accountable. This will be the Church of the future or there will be no Church at all.
A call to the declericalized Church.
A Church in which the incumbents, in joyful humility, admit that the Spirit blows where He wills and has not arranged with them an exclusive and permanent tenancy. They recognize that the charismatic element…is just as necessary as the office in the Church; this office is never simply identical with the Spirit and can never replace it; this office also is only really effectively credible in the eyes of men when the presence of the Spirit is evident and not only when it is a question of a formal mission and authority”.
And a prayer:
Prayer-thought for those who fear old age or death
Even though I’m getting old
and the years are less advanced than they were before;
I’m also closer to this Kingdom
where there is no beginning or end,
No more pain or sorrow,
Where all that’s broken is mended,
Where all that is damaged is healed,
where everything loves,
Broken and unbroken,
Are caught in the One Love
i will see now
and I will know them
facing the One
I have wanted all my life.
And I will finally be home!
© Father Robert Gibbons May 2022