It can’t be Holy Week next week?!

And if it is – how on earth did we get here?

There are advantages to an early Lent – for many people this year, Lent will almost be over before they really get to grips with the fact that it started – far too soon after Christmas. Only two weeks now and we can get back to the chocolate – the alcohol – the things we have denied ourselves and life can get back to normal! But for our Elect and Candidates, two weeks time brings them to one of the most important events in their lives. There will be a certain amount of making their new status as a Catholic Christian part of normal life but just at present, we hope they are living with a heightened awareness of the call to which they are responding – looking back on the Rite of Election with joy and ahead to the Easter Vigil with eager anticipation (albeit tinged with a bit of 
anxiety).

This last week of Lent might be a good time to offer them the opportunity to look back on how they got to this point.

This week’s blog could be used as a guided reflection inspired by the Year A Gospels – as part of an RCIA session or individually over a coffee – or both!

Brew up – settle back – and relive the journey to this last week of Lent… it really IS Holy Week next week – how on earth did we get here!

It started somewhere… Jesus’ public ministry started with his baptism in the Jordan – spend a few moments building up the scene in your mind’s eye. Jesus emerging from a crowd … John’s reluctance … Jesus’ immersion in the river and the dove coming upon him… and the words from God: This is my beloved Son – listen to him.  When have I felt that love of God for me – sensing that I am God’s beloved son – beloved daughter?

Almost immediately, Jesus is sent into the wilderness – to be tempted – challenged? Where have my wildernesses been? … When have I faced challenges which have helped me to find God and God’s will for me?

And Jesus took three close friends to the top of a mountain and became transfigured – their friend but not their friend… divinity shining from him – majestic divinity in the air all around them … and that voice again: My Son – the Beloved – listen to him. What words of Jesus have spoken most powerfully to me over the last few months?

It hasn’t always been plain sailing – there have been times of weariness and uncertainty – when I’ve needed time and the faith of others to recharge my batteries. When have I come to the “well” – come to listen to Jesus and to other people – and found myself refreshed? When have people come to the “well” – and I have found myself like the Samaritan Woman – engaging in conversation and listening and helping myself and my companions to go deeper into the mystery of God? When have I taken my experience of encountering Jesus back to others?

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And the Gospel of last week – the story of the person born blind … whose soul saw things hidden from the sight of others … who stuck to his story no matter what pressure he was put under ….  When have I had a sudden insight – a kind of dawning understanding of something that had been hidden from me before? Have there been things during my RCIA sessions that have been like a bolt from the blue – or shaft of lightning? When have others not seen the truth as I have… and how did I feel?

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And what of Martha or Mary in the Gospel story of the raising of Lazarus? When have I been like Martha – heading down the road to meet Jesus … and telling him like it is: If you had been here this wouldn’t have happened. Where were you when ……..(name something that stretched your faith)? Or, when like Mary – overcome with sorrow and just unable to make the first move – but sensing the Lord somewhere out there … And how do I feel when I recall the shortest verse in Scripture: Jesus wept. Jesus’ own grief coming through … his own tears shed with those of Martha and Mary… his own tears shed with my own – his tears for my sorrow … His compassion which does not deny sadness but shares it – and seeks to transform it. When have I sensed the healing love of my Lord?

And here we are – months – years – into our Journey of Faith … And along the way – the company of Jesus – whether we recognised him at the time or not …

Next week, we will accompany him on the last fateful journey from the entry into Jerusalem – from euphoria to agony … from praise to condemnation … from hope to despair … from death to resurrection …

And I will respond to his invitation – for the first time as I enter the waters of baptism and die with him and rise to new life … or the fiftieth … I will respond to the invitation to be part of this story – of a death that changed the world because it did not end there …

It really IS Holy Week next week! How did I get here? And more importantly – where is the Lord leading me from here – from the waters of Baptism to….? from anointing and gifting with the Spirit to …? to the Lord’s Table … and from there…?

Kathryn T

09/03/08

In your dreams

In the Gospel of the Fourth Sunday of Advent, we hear that Joseph had learned the news of Mary’s pregnancy. What would have been going through his mind as he tried to work out what to do? The desire to keep his honour wrestling with his desire to protect this young woman from any more disgrace than she was already facing…How many nights had he tossed and turned – before a fateful night on which, it could be said, the history of salvation depended. The Word had become Flesh but was infinitely vulnerable – and would be for many years. How was the Child to be protected in the long years of childhood if this good man rejected the woman who he thought had so seriously betrayed him?

And God sends a messenger to speak to this man in a dream… to enter his troubled sleep with words of comfort – of reassurance.But words that made no sense -what on earth does a child having been conceived by the Holy Spirit mean?

Joseph – like his namesake hundreds of years before – was a dreamer. Like the earlier Joseph, he trusted the dreams – and would have known that dreams are not always sweet – and their interpretation not always comfortable.Hadn’t the first Joseph ended up in Egypt because of his dreams? But then, hadn’t he ended up as Pharaoh’s right-hand man because of his skill in dream interpretation?

And don’t we now know that this Joseph’s dreams were not prophesying a quiet life?

Yet he took Mary into his home and brought up the Child with such love that when Jesus came to try to express something of what God was like, he used the childhood word he would have used for Joseph: Abba.

What was in that dream that led a Jewish carpenter to stake the rest of his life on it?

An angel told him not to be afraid – that all these strange circumstances fall within God’s plan – within God’s great Dream for humanity. For a short time the dreamer catches a privileged glimpse into the Dream and for the rest of his life will play his part in its unfolding.

Those we accompany of their journey come with their own dreams – those glimpses that draw them to God – to enquire ‘what does this mean?’ – to question ‘is it real?’ Perhaps our role as catechists is to act as angels – as messengers of God. We listen to their stories – to their dreams – and we say “don’t be afraid. God is with you.” And we share from our experience of living out our part in the Dream. We speak of other players in the Dream – the great and the small – the ones who sought to interpret and the ones who simply gazed in rapt awe upon the mysteries within it. We tell of those who also staked their lives on the Dream – who gave and give their lives for love of it.  We lead them into rites which earth the Dream in sight and sound and touch and taste and smell – for it is the Dream of the Word Incarnate – en-fleshed – a Dream to be lived out in human bodies. We feed the mind – the imagination – for it is here that the Dream takes root and heart.

Like Joseph, we are keepers of the Dream – but not its owners. We have heard our own angels calming our fears and encouraging us to faith – to hope and to love. Joseph’s charge was the protection of the Child Jesus and his mother – ours to retell their stories. His privilege, it is said, to die with Jesus and Mary at his side – ours to know that his adopted son broke the barriers of death and made real the yearning dream of eternal life. His faith was to face the shattered dream of conventional marriage and family life and to trust the greater Dream through long journeys and exile. Ours is to stand with others in their broken dreams and to brave the journeys and the exiles that form our part of the Dream.

For we have glimpsed the Dream. We have sensed that before we were formed in the wombs of our mothers, God was dreaming of us and of the part we would play in the unfolding of his Great Dream. Our parts may be small – but are no less important for that – for without them the Dream is incomplete.In witnessing our faith, others learn to trust the dream planted in them and to let God’s Dream take root – and grow closer to its fulfilment through those who, like Joseph, dare to dream their dreams and to stake their lives on the truth of the greater and eternal Dream.

Kathryn T

24/12/07