Friday, 9 December 2016

Advent 30 Day Retreat: Week Two Day 12

Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
By Susanne Timpani

…Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks; so she came to him and asked, 

“Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to do all the work by myself? Tell her then to help me.” 

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part…' (Luke 10:39-42)

Are you worried that you are not prepared for Christmas? Are you worried that you are not worried? Over this year we have probably carried many worries - health, work, study, family, community, ministry, finances or faith.

We all carry elements of Mary and Martha. Advent reminds us to choose the 'better part', the way of Mary.

Reflect on this beautiful rendition of 'Be Still My Soul' on YouTube.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Advent 30 Day Retreat Week 2 Day 11

Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
By Colin Sutton (in 2014 prior to his death)

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. John 3:16

An Advent Miracle

This morning I glanced on my bedside table at an icon of Jesus holding the Word. Have we considered how incredible that the Son of God actually came from heaven to earth! Can we get our minds around the fact that God walked and taught on this earth that we walk on?

I am overawed with this amazing miracle. Where would we be without Jesus?
He has saved us, so that through Him we may save others.

He is the Good News, so that we may be the Good News. Everything we do either brings someone closer to Him, or takes them further away. 

May the coming of Christmas open the door for the coming of Jesus to all.

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

Advent 30 Day Retreat: Week 2: Day 10

Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
Reflection by Susanne Timpani
…and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Ephesians 4:32

The Christmas season provides us with opportunities to exercise kindness and generosity. This YouTube clip – although created as a commercial – provides a light-hearted yet powerful reflection on these values.

John Lewis Christmas Advert 2013 - The Bear & The Hare

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Advent 30 Day Retreat: Week 2: Day 9

Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
By Leanne Walsh

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David's ancient home. He travelled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. (Luke 2:1-5)

As we read of these historical events, it confirms for us that we are reading about ‘real’ people set in ‘real’ places and in a ‘real’ time in history.  

The census that draws Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem is to bring Joseph to his birthplace, the birthplace of David, where ultimately Jesus would be born.

This was prophesied centuries before in 
(Micah 5:2) "But you Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days”.
This journey (probably in winter) would not have been an easy one, Bethlehem being about 4 days journey from Nazareth.  Mary, heavily pregnant, only days from giving birth would have endured much hardship.

But who is to say that following God’s plan is easy?  When we face hardships or challenges in our life it is not an indication that God is absent.  He has promised us that He will be with us and that He will strengthen us in whatever difficulties we face.

“The Lord is the one who goes ahead of you.  He will be with you.  He will not fail you or forsake you.  Do not fear or be dismayed”
(Deuteronomy 31:8)
In this time of preparation as we await our Saviour's birth, let us be assured of Him walking with us, helping us in our life.

Call out to Him, for He is near.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Advent 30 Day Retreat: Day 8

Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
By Malcolm Davies

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.(Luke 1:56)

Three months would appear a long time to stay with someone especially as Mary was pregnant and would be experiencing all the discomforts of early pregnancy.

Luke has insight into the faith of Mary and how she was a woman who was prepared to suffer to bring about the Kingdom. This small suffering in pregnancy is a beginning of a life of discipleship and later on we read of greater challenges in the journey into Egypt and back in order to protect the child Jesus.

Mary is the first disciple and we can all learn from her. Mary is a woman of prayer and faithfulness and her faith has been recognised by Elizabeth when she says that Mary is blessed because she believes what God has promised will come true.
One ministry we are all capable of is to walk with someone who is struggling. Just like Mary staying the journey with Elizabeth you may want to reflect on which person are you called to journey with.

It could be a sick relative in a nursing home. It could be spending time with a work colleague who is having a relationship difficulty. It could be visiting a mother with a new baby. 

Discipleship is not always exciting but the small things we do for others is one way the Kingdom is manifest in our society.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

10 Minute Daily Retreat: Second Sunday of Advent

Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
By Susanne Timpani

John the Baptist appeared in the desert, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. All of Judea, including all the people of Jerusalem, went out to see and hear John. And when they confessed their sins he baptized them in the Jordan River. (Mark 1:4-6)

This painting gives us a glimpse of the type of crowd that gathered around John the Baptist. He must have been a compelling speaker for people to have come from 'all of Judea' and 'Jerusalem' to see and hear him. 

I listened to a toastmaster recently who described the competitions speech makers enter. They are judged on presentation as much as content.

I suspect John was provided with a natural talent for drawing a crowd. If he was all doom and gloom I wonder how many people would have bothered to travel out to meet him. 

Surely his message was an exciting and challenging one? 'Get ready, coming who is going to turn your world upside down.'

His was a call to action. 'This is what you must do.' People had to leave the safety of the crowd and go out on a limb in order to be baptised.

Are there aspects of my life that crowd out God's call to me? Are there ways I can support others to come and see and hear what Christmas is truly about?

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Advent 30 Day Retreat: First Week: Day 6

Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
By Susanne Timpani

A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:39-41

Everything we have read so far this week is impossible! Yet anything is impossible with God. 

Listen to this beautiful reflection by John Michael Talbot, singing and sharing how all things are possible, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Advent 30 Day Retreat: First Week: Day 5

Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart. 
By Susanne Timpani

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:
 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”
Matthew 1:18-21

This is one of my favourite Advent hymns.
O Come O Come Emmanuel

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here,
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan's tyranny ;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory o'er the grave.
Rejoice ! Rejoice ! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Dayspring, from on high,
And cheer us by Thy drawing nigh;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death's dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice ! Rejoice ! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Thou Key of David, come
And open wide our heav'nly home ;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.
Rejoice ! Rejoice ! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, Adonai, Lord of might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai's height,
In ancient times didst give the law
In cloud and majesty and awe.
Rejoice ! Rejoice ! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Advent 30 Day Retreat: First Week: Day 4

Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
By Malcolm Davies

 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" For the Lord's hand was with him.  Luke 1:65-68
"His name is John."
The people recognise God’s special presence and divine purpose in the birth of John the Baptist as they have heard about his amazing conception and birth. The people are in awe and that is a common reaction when we sense the presence and the power of God.

The phrase ‘the hand of the Lord was certainly with him’ was a common phrase used by Luke and it indicated that the power of God was present in John’s life and that God had a plan for John.

God has a plan for our life as well as God is with us, God is for us, and God has a purpose for our lives.

The primary mission for John was to prepare the people for the coming of Jesus. That is also a part of the plan that God has for our life as well.

We don’t have to be a person who stands on the street corner shouting out for the passers-by to repent, but we can call others into the Kingdom by the way we live our life.

If we are persons of prayer, who are formed by the scriptures and the traditions of the people of God, and who have responded to God’s call by a life of service and witness, then we will prepare others for the Kingdom of God.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Advent 30 Day Retreat: First Week: Day 3

Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
By Malcolm Davies

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 

Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly. Matthew 1:18-21

St Joseph and the Angel
St Dominic's Priory Church London.

The appearance of the angel signifies that this is a sacred event. The power and presence of God is being manifest in a visible way to Joseph through the dream.

We are reminded of another Joseph in the book of Genesis who also experienced God speaking to him through his dreams.  

God has a plan for each one of us and he has a dream for us and will communicate that dream if we are open to the grace of God.
If you are overwhelmed with discouragement or a feeling of unworthiness then think of the faith of Joseph. If you are gripped by  anxiety then think of the hope of Joseph  who journeyed in difficult circumstances to Egypt and back again (as did the Joseph in Genesis).

If you are angry or resentful then think of the love of Joseph who, along with Mary, was the among the first to see the human face of God in the person of Jesus who came to bring good news and responded to evil by suffering and laying down his life for us.

For the sake of the Kingdom Joseph experienced persecution, struggles, exile and poverty.  His reward was to journey with Jesus and see the beginnings of a new creation and the new and everlasting covenant of God with men and women.
Joseph is an example of how we are to be faithful in good times and difficult times. Be faithful to the Gospel.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Advent 30 Day Retreat: First Week: Day 2

Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
By Lyn Churchyard

Mary’s Song of Praise 
‘Oh how my soul praises the LORD.
How my spirit praises the God of my salvation!'

When Mary first heard the news given to her by the angel Gabriel that she was to give birth to the Saviour of the world, and sang her song of praise to God, her words echo those of Hannah when told she would have a child.

But unlike Hannah, Mary had no idea of what lay ahead, or the implications of the birth of that baby.

The following YouTube clip Mary Did You Know? is one of my very favourite Christmas songs, and I think it says it all. Close your eyes and listen to the depth of meaning in the words.

Monday, 28 November 2016

Advent 30 Day Retreat: First Week: Day 1

Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
By Susanne Timpani 

She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,[a]
    which means ‘God is with us.’”(Matthew 1:23)

 Adults and children alike come out to enjoy Christmas pageants and Santa has arrived in Department stores. Christmas trees, lights and tinsel decorate homes, shops and offices. Christmas carols are piped through intercoms in busy malls, lulling shoppers to dig deep and spend more. After all, we are counting down the number of shopping days until Christmas.

Post offices not visited for over a year are lined with customers waiting to purchase the discounted Christmas stamps. Cards are mailed and received.

For those who work in welfare, the names of needy families are collated and sent into charities in the hope that Santa arrives for everyone. Food hampers are created and volunteer agencies are busy delivering them.

Schools and dance classes are practicing for the end of the year concerts or nativity plays. Work sites and recreational clubs celebrate over special dinners.

In some denominations, parishioners dust off family advent wreaths and the hunt is on to find a discount store that sells those illusive purple and rose candles. For those who go to church, the scripture readings and sermons aim to help people prepare for the ultimate celebration of the season; the birth of Jesus Christ.

In the midst of so much activity there is a danger that we ignore the glue that binds it all together. Daily, deep, intimate prayer with the very person whose birth we celebrate. 

Jesus is with us and waits for us each day to turn up for prayer, and experience His presence. If we don’t make a decision to set aside a specific time slot to pray, it’s highly likely that we will succumb to the busyness of the season, and it just won't happen.

For some, praying can be hard. What do we say to God? How do we know if He is even listening?
The value of integrating scripture into daily prayer can never be underestimated.

In this 30 Day Retreat, the Christmas story is divvied up into 30 bible verses. The challenge is to sit in silence every day for 10 minutes. A format based on the ancient Christian practice of Lectio Divina  may be helpful.

The Christmas story begins with the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist. It continues past Christmas day to include the flight of Jesus, Mary and Joseph into Egypt. It concludes with their return to Israel and the settling of Jesus into family life. 

If you don’t already receive these reflections daily, you can do so via email, or by downloading the App:

 I look forward to sharing this 30 Day Retreat with you.

Sunday, 27 November 2016

10 Minute Daily Retreat November - Gift of Reverence

Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
By Louise Crossley (No.226)

The ‘Surrender Prayer’ by Father Dolindo Ruotolo, begins with…

‘Why do you confuse yourselves by worrying?
 Leave the care of your affairs to me and everything will be peaceful. 
I say to you in truth that every act of true, blind, complete surrender to me produces the effect that you desire and resolves all difficult situations.
O Jesus, I surrender myself to you, take care of everything! (10 times)’

I have mentioned in a past reflection that while Saint Peter and Judas were both sinners, Saint Peter was for God and Judas was not.  Just as today’s Catholic Gospel spoke about the good thief being for God and not the bad thief. What differentiates them? What differentiates us? We too are all sinners, but some of us are God’s and some of us are not.

This is where I believe Reverence comes in. When we are deeply respectful in our intentions, even though our human flaws cause us to sin, we are for God. Reverence is the overwhelming sense of gratitude for being loved by God despite our shortcomings. While the Judas’ and bad thieves may use human flaws as propaganda to promote or justify purposeful sinful behaviour, they are missing the point of what it means to be ‘for God’.  

Reverence is to surrender, respecting that God is so much better than we are and through His Divine goodness loves us anyway. Reverence is to be sincerely remorseful, to be in awe of the incredible love that God shows us, to mean well. Reverence is to trust and respect God so purely - in spite of our impurities - and surrender, but with our whole hearts and not our mere mouths.  

Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to GodPhil 4:6

Read the scripture slowly. 
Reflect on its meaning for you.
Listen for God's voice in the stillness. 
Pray for God's blessing upon you.

Louise Crossley

Sunday, 13 November 2016

10 Minute Daily Retreat November - Gift of Reverence

Read the Word of God with a prayerful heart.
By Malcolm Davies (No.225)
Exodus 3:5
Then the Lord said, "Do not come near here; remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."

Moses was in a remote place, a place of silence, when he saw the burning bush and heard the voice of God.

We may read the scriptures and be amazed that God chose to communicate with special people and then question why it doesn’t happen to us.

We live in a society that is full of external noise. We can go through the whole day without a minute of silence.

I once undertook an eight-day silent retreat – no TV, radio, phones or anything else to distract me. Someone said to me beforehand that they would rather lose a hand than be in silence for so long.

Every part of the eight days, reflecting on scripture, was a personal experience of being on holy ground as I allowed God to speak to me.

Every bush can be a personal burning bush if we cultivate a time of silence in our lives and say to the Lord – speak your servant is listening. Maybe just 15 minutes a day. Morning, noon or night.

Let God speak to you today.

Read the scripture slowly.
Reflect on its meaning for you. 
Listen for God's voice in the stillness. 

Pray for God's blessing upon you.