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This Sunday's Programme

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2nd Sunday B

Sunday 14th January 2024

The Gospel Paraphrased

There are many fine translations of the Gospels readily available. This paraphrase is not meant to replace them. Rather the intention here is to offer a more contemporary rendering so that you can imaginatively translate the Gospel in your own situation.

This Sunday's Gospel Paraphrased

Jn 1: 35-42

The next day, John was standing with two of his disciples, and looking intently at Jesus as he walked by, John said, ‘Look! there is the Lamb of God!’ The moment the disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning, Jesus saw them following him and asked them, ‘What do you want?’ They answered, ‘Rabbi (which can be translated as Master), where are you living?’ He said to them, ‘Come and see.’ So they came and saw and remained with him for the rest of the day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.

One of the two who heard what John had said and who had followed was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He went straightaway and found Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah (which is translated as the Anointed One).’ And he brought him to Jesus. When Jesus looked intently at him, he said, ‘You are Simon, the son of Jonah. You are to be called Cephas (which is translated as a Rock).’

Psalm

The Psalms are the ancient prayers of the Jewish people, here paraphrased into contemporary language.

This Sunday's Psalm

Ps 39: 2,4, 7-10

Patiently, I waited for the Lord,
and God stretched out to me,
drew close to hear my cry.
On my tongue he placed a new song:
Praise of my God.

Sacrifices, offerings, you don’t want these.
rather my heart open to your word.
Neither do you want gifts and donations
but my very self.

In your book, it is written
that I should do your will.
I desire to follow your law
from the depths of my being.

In the midst of many people
I have proclaimed your righteousness.
I have not been reluctant
to proclaim you, O God.

Prayers

Words cannot contain our desire for God but they help direct our minds and hearts towards God's love and express our needs.

This Sunday's Prayer

Loving God, you know the desires of our hearts and how deeply we yearn for your life and love.  You also know the confusion and failure that stifles our lives.  Send us your Spirit that we may hear the call of Jesus to follow him and give us the wisdom to live by his love.  We ask this in his name confident that you will hear us.

The Commentaries Summarised

As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.

This Sunday's Commentary

The Sunday’s Gospel occurs in a section of John’s Gospel which begins with the witness of John the Baptist to Jesus and concludes with the revelation of Jesus’ glory in the transformation of water into wine at the marriage feast of Cana. The careful numbering of the days and the words used remind the reader of the revelation of God’s glory on Mt Sinai. Preceding this reading, John the Baptist has been witnessing to Jesus, recognising him as the Chosen One of God. The next day, after looking intently at Jesus, he calls him the Lamb of God which carried the symbolism of sacrifice to his hearers.

Two of his disciples then leave John to follow Jesus. The question Jesus asks them, “What do you want?” are the first words that Jesus utters in this Gospel. The verb he uses has a rich meaning that also includes desiring and seeking. It is frequently used in all four Gospels. One could say that the question Jesus is asking the two disciples is “What is the fundamental desire that determines your life?” In John’s Gospel this verb is most commonly used to express relationship or lack of relationship with Jesus or his Father. Later, in this Gospel, some will be condemned because they do not have this want/desire/longing. The two disciples seem to be sideswiped by the question. They don’t know how to respond but their question they ask implies the desire to be with Jesus and to become his disciples.

After being with Jesus that day, Andrew’s first response is to bring his brother to Jesus. Again we have the verb ‘to look intently’. Jesus looks ‘intently’ at Peter and sees not only greater depths in Peter but also the future calling that will be his. The name ‘Rock’ points to the transformation that will happen in his life as he enters into relationship with Jesus.

Exposition

Christian conversion is promoted by conversation. This section is a response to and a development on the knowledge gained from the commentary section.

This Sunday's Exposition

A mathematics teacher set her class a different task one day. She gave each a sheet of paper on which were listed all the pupils’ names with a space of a few lines between each. She told the class that they were to fill in the list with the good things they saw in each other. At the end of the class she collected the lists and the next day each person received back another list with all the good things that were said about him or her self. Nothing further was said about the task. Years later at the funeral of one of the class, it came out that the person who had died had carried his list with him all his life. Then the various members of the class shared how his or her list was a treasured possession.

In this Sunday’s Gospel there are two instances of ‘looking intensely’ at another. John looked at Jesus and saw beyond the cousin he would have known to what Jesus was called to be. Seeing that role of Jesus helped him understand better his own calling. Jesus looked intensely at Peter and saw the person Peter was called to be.

Being seen for our best self and seeing others for their best selves are transformative experiences, both for us individually and as communities. But even more important is recognising how Jesus looks at each of us. As he did with Peter, Jesus looks at each of us with love and with the desire for each of us to grow into being the best person we could be. We each need to regularly rest within that gaze and allow it to be the guiding force of our lives.

 

Reflection

Reflection is an essential element of our growth in Christ. As we reflect over what we have learnt and ponder it in our hearts, we come to recognise the presence of God in our lives.

This Sunday's Reflection

Freud said that despite thirty years of research into the feminine soul, he still couldn’t answer the question, what does a woman want? Maybe it is not only about women that the answer is unclear, but also for all of us.  In this Sunday’s reading Jesus utters his first words in the Gospel of John: ‘What do you want?’  The verb Jesus uses is richer than our ‘want’ as it also includes the sense of ‘seek’ and ‘desire’.  In other words, Jesus was asking those first two disciples, ‘What are the deepest longings of your hearts, the ones that determine the course of your life?’ Andrew and his companion found the question too difficult and deflected it with a question asking where Jesus lives!

Our longings and desires! They can be the energy that powers our lives along, and the force that derails us.  We can ride on their strength and they can undermine our dreams.  So how do we deal with these forces?   If we peel back the layers of our longings and desires, even the ones that we call ‘bad’, even ‘evil’, we will eventually come to something good. Having been made in the image and likeness of God, our deepest desires bear the trace of grace.  It is when our good desires become disordered that destruction takes place.  For example, I have noticed that some people get caught in bad relationships, not out of desire for sex, but rather out of fear of loneliness…and what is loneliness but the desire for communion.  How much suffering would have been averted if those people had known the skills of friendship?  When we are being tossed by our desires, it is a good time to stop and ask, ‘Where is the face of God in this desire and how can this desire foster life?’

Visual Meditation

Looking at art works or movies is a great way to open ourselves to the meaning of the Gospels. Seeing can bypass our preconceived notions, giving us new vistas of enlightenment. With painting or sculpture one needs to sit quietly and absorb the dynamics of the piece. The drama of movies more easily engages us and offers a way to conversation about the Gospel with other members of your family.

This Sunday's Visual Meditation

– In this painting by Dieric Bouts  notice John the Baptist pointing to what is probably a portrait of the patron that commissioned the painting.
– In this representation of John the Baptist by Philippe de Champagne notice the imploring look John gives as he points to Jesus in the distance.
– In this watercolour by James Tissot, Jesus is turning and calling Andrew and his companion.

Mulling Meditation

The purpose of mulling meditations is to offer a few ideas that one can mull about while doing other occupations. There are many things we do in our day that do not require our full attention - some things which are largely done on automatic pilot - like driving a car or peeling the potatoes. While we give these our attention, part of our mind is still at work mulling on other things and unless it is given something positive to feed on, we easily feed on negative thoughts. Personally I find mulling time the most likely time for God to get through to me. Because I am not so conscious of myself, God gets through the cracks and opens my heart to look at life differently.
Two practical times for mulling can be when exercising and when driving. Some small preparations for integrating such prayer into these exercises can be helpful.

Exercising
As you do your preparatory stretches, pray the line of the Psalm "I praise you God for I am wonderfully made!"
Similarly when doing your concluding stretches use the prayer of St Clare "Praised be you, my God, for creating me!"

Driving
Have some music that you find helps you turn you mind and heart to God and play that for the first 10 minutes or so of your trip.

This Sunday's Mulling Meditation

As you go through this week, notice what wants you have for your life and the lives of those around you.  In quiet moments, mull on what desires underlie these wants.  Can you see that good lies at the base of all?  In wants that seem wrong or out of order, can you discern where the desire has been disordered or distorted?

Mirror Meditation

In the Letter of James, we are told that the Scriptures are like a mirror in which we can see ourselves. In this type of meditation we take a piece of Scripture, hold it before us and consider what echoes within our heart. These echoes help us to see who we are before God and how we are loved. What usually echoes in us are situations that we are dealing with in our lives. When something strikes us, we do not actively try to solve the situation or work it through. Rather we sit holding it in God's love. The point of such a meditation is to make space within the situation for God's love to be. In 'sitting with' such a situation, painful or sad, we come to recognise the love of God that is at work on our lives. The suggestions for Mirror reflections can also be used for Exercise reflections but wouldn't be advised for Driving Prayer as often some degree of emotion or distraction might rise in such prayer.

This Sunday's Mirror Meditation

Rest in the love of your God.

When you are at rest, ask Jesus to come to you and call you by name. Ponder on the meaning that he gives to your name. Ponder on the various aspects of your personality that makes up who you are, your desires and preferences, your gifts and talents, the aspects of yourself that you judge as failing. Ask Jesus how he views these. Ask him how he wants you to grow in using these.

Rest in the love of your God.