truth & freedom

Today’s reflection is a podcast reflection on today’s gospel that you can jump to a little further down the page, but if you have the time I’ll share a story about today’s first reading

My first appointment as a priest was to the parish of Greymouth where I spent three wonderful years. Every weekday morning Mass was celebrated and we would nab someone as they arrived to get them to read the first reading and psalm. No problem since people who agree to read at the last minute have no problem reading most readings well.

This day, the people sat for the Liturgy of the Word and the reader came forward I suddenly realised that she was in for a challenge she was not expecting since the first reading began “King Nebuchadnezzar said, ‘Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, is it true that you do not serve my gods?”

The reader bravely stumbled through the pronunciation of these four unpronounceable names then realised a second later that these four names appear half a dozen times in the short reading. The second time her exasperation was evident and for the rest of the readings she switched to referring to them as “the king and his boys!”

But this Old Testament reading is well worth reading again as a powerful example of people who are able to live so freely they are more attached to God even than to earthly life.

Now to the podcast reflection on today’s gospel reading.

Transcript of podcast:

If you remain in my word, you will truly be my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free….everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin… If the Son frees you, then you will be truly free.

In the living of the Christian life we want to hear from people who can encourage us.

One of the encouragements or challenges that we are often given is from people who tell us that the Christian life is about letting go and they are right. But often their understanding of what it means to let go might be unhelpful.

Let’s take the example of the rich young man who comes to Jesus. We know that he is a good young man because he asks “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  And Jesus says to him keep the commandments. He responds I’ve done this always! What more what more must I do?

Jesus looks at him and loves him and says “there’s only one thing you lack. Let go of all you possess and come follow me.”

Let go. Jesus says to him.

Once I heard an encouraging speaker give an example of what it is to let go. He said: Imagine the man that falls from the cliff on the way down he reaches out as he is falling towards the ground and grasps hold of a branch. Now he’s hanging there. It’s a long way up. It’s a long way down.

He calls out “God save me” And he hears a voice come from below. “Let go. I will catch you.”

Well I don’t like the story because if I were that man I wouldn’t be able to let go. I would hold on for dear life.

Perhaps it’s more helpful to think of this image.: a newborn child perhaps a week or two old. I take the child in my arms and I hold the child . The child without thinking reaches out and grasps hold of maybe a finger and holds on. Perhaps they are thinking that if they hold on they will be more secure?

If they let go that’s fine too. The fact is that something much bigger is holding onto the child. I am embracing the child I will never let the child go.

In the Christian life when we think about letting go let’s not think of the man hanging from the branch. But let’s think of being embraced in the tender loving embrace of God. If we hold onto things , well that’s a game that we can play but much better if we relax and know that God is holding us in tender loving embrace always, and we have nothing to fear.

An Invitation:

  • Take a moment now to relax, perhaps with a couple of deep breaths, and to know that you are held in the loving embrace of God. In this embrace you are aware of the ultimate truth, you are loved by God, and in Jesus God is with you in every anxiety you carry today. This truth is setting you free.
  • We have decided to continue these daily reflections (originally intended only for Lent) for the duration of the COVID-19 lockdown. Your feedback comments have been the encouragement we needed. Thanks for your support and please share the sign-up link with others www.foodforfaith.org.nz. John & Jason
34 Responses to "truth & freedom"
  1. After spending a crazy 3hrs lying awake in emotional/mental ‘thought storms’ – what a comfort to read this and be reminded:
    I am not alone
    I am lovingly held
    AND
    ‘God is with you in every anxiety you carry today’
    Thanks FFF & God

  2. I have grown to love that reading ~ and it makes me smile every time I hear it. I started reading after my confirmation at the age of 16. I loved it. But a few years ago I started to lose the power in my voice, I gave up being a Reader a couple of years ago . It seemed to me that my turn to read always came up for “The King and his Boys”…. I was taught, breathe, relax and don’t worry how you pronounce them but do it with consistency and confidence…… their with you on this! Just as god is with us in “family time 2020”. Be blessed everyone.

  3. So thankful you will carry the reflections on throughout our lockdown, a light in the darkness, words of hope in our anxiety and comfort in our fears.
    Blessings on you both!

  4. Capturing a moment when I went through layers of acknowledging and naming the blocks in me, then the something happened – felt the loving embrace of God, it is an experience that is difficult to describe. It is an awesome mystical experience that is uniquely amazing, – an experience that has enormous power when revisited and has different messages each time. This particular experience grows. Thank you Fr John for the spiritual guidance.
    Amen.

  5. Lovely reflection, John. It reminds us that Pilate said, ?What is truth?” not realising that it was standing in front of him,

  6. A real comforting thought, of being “embraced in the tender loving embrace of God”. We can relax and having nothing to fear, God is holding us and we are safe. I am thrilled to read you will continue this wonderful spiritual guidance, that brings hope. Thank you.
    Amen

  7. YEA! Great you are continuing John. Thanks

    You may have the next sentence of the man hanging from the branch when God said ‘Let go…’

    It was “Is there anyone else up there?” 😉

  8. Thank you, thank you, thank you. We are not locked down but set free and will indeed thrive and not just survive. Having these reflections each morning is such a blessing.

  9. This is a powerful reflection, Fr John. Thank you so much. I have realised that ‘possessions’ are more than what is material. I will need to let go of my ‘other possessions’ and let God embrace me.
    Muna

  10. Amen wait every day for theses lessons so much encouragement and learning new ways of looking at readings thank you Father Amen

  11. So true. God is always with us. During these days of the corona virus we need to rely on God, pray and support one another. God is always with us – through good times and bad

  12. Fr John, your reflection on “letting go” reminds of this prayer of Henri Nouwen that I sometimes use.

    Open Hands
    Dear God,
    I am so afraid to open my clenched fists!
    Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold onto?
    Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands?

    Please help me to gradually open my hands
    and to discover that I am not what I own,
    but what you want to give me.
    And what you want to give me is love –
    unconditional, everlasting love.

    I do not know where you are leading me.
    I do not even know what my next day,
    my next week, or my next year will look like.
    As I try to keep my hands open,
    I trust that you will put your hand in mine
    and bring me home.

    Thank you, God, for your love.
    Thank you.
    Amen.

    Adapted from Henri Nouwen’s book “With Open Hands”.

  13. Good morning Father.

    Thank you for your continued support. It is comforting to open my email and find your link there in these uncertain times.

    I have lived the “Let go,” and while I was terrified at the time, I am now amazed at how much richer and fulfilling my life is today. When I look back at my past “successful” life I see how empty it really was and how much more joy I experience now that the Lord guides me every day.

    Thank you again for all your love, care and guidance, we are truely blessed.

  14. Thank you for continuing the daily reflections past lent this year. I have found the reflection, encouraging, thought provoking and a source of comfort.
    Cheers
    John

  15. Life is a paradox … COVID-19 is a contemplative calling to transform our spiritual life in order to enhance our balance of wholeness and the wellbeing of our inner and outer experiences.

    Thank you for helping us all grow in a deeper awareness of the gifts of truth and freedom in this time of uncertainty. The daily readings and reflections from the Scriptures are offering us transformative experiences – connecting us to humanity and helping us find spiritual solace.

    This is truly a time for us to cultivate a meaningful and purposeful contemplative practice with quality readings, meditation, silence and stillness, nature, music, art, poetry, relationships.

    I pray for people in Authority that humanity may live peaceably and hopefully in the light of truth and freedom. +

    Virginia

  16. Thank you so much Fr John for your love and guidance and for continuing beyond Lent. The prayer of Henri Nouwen is beautiful so thanks to Mark also

  17. Father John that 1st reading will never be the same for us again. LOL!
    Thank you for sharing your story with us. Stories are powerful and your sharing reminds me that we all have our story to share, and that no matter how simple it is God can make His Kingdom come through it.

  18. Thank you Father John for continuing these daily readings and reflections beyond Lent. They are ‘the finger that I reach for’ night and morning as we negotiate this difficult time together. Although in ‘lock down’ physically my heart is finding freedom in your daily reflections.

  19. Thank you Fr John. This really helped me today as I was forgetting!
    I am in the middle of change and experiencing loss. I contract and try to control and hold on. I become exhausted. Your words today remind me to notice our human experience and suffering, together with a deep knowing that we are being gently held in God’s loving presence. Always! Remembering this we can relax and open our hearts and minds and let go and be present.
    Thank you all Monica

  20. I too am grateful – it was so good to hear your voice today John, as I listened to the podcast. Thank you so much. Blessings and peace and freedom for you too.

  21. I am hoping that taking the time to stop and read your wonderful thoughts, attempt the challenges, and genuinely listen and look for that guiding presence will make a difference to me and those I live with.
    Thank you for providing this opportunity and I am very pleased to read that you will be here through out our opportunity to thrive !

  22. I am not great with words but I would like to say I have loved the encouragement your words bring in all your FFF. I am sure all of us are very grateful & appreciate that you will continue with your daily reflections & readings. God Bless all in these very trying times

  23. Fear of will I lose this friendship, husband, person if I share my beliefs.please God help me to lovingly stand in obedience to you the truth.

  24. Fr John, I don’t often get to read your FFF till later in the day but they give me so much thought and I am so glad and grateful that you are continuing during this time. God Bless you in your work.

  25. Thank you Mark for sharing that prayer, so beautiful. I will pray it over this time. So pleased you are continuing Fr John. Thank you for this taste of freedom today.

  26. Fr John, thank you for continuing your daily reflection during our lockdown. The guy hanging from the branch reminds me of the time when I was teaching at primary level and the kids had been forbidden to climb trees because one of the boys had fallen from a branch and broken his arm. One lunchtime I was called urgently by a group of little girls that Elizabeth was stuck up in the big walnut tree. When I got there she couldn’t get down any further and I just couldn’t quite reach her. There would have been a gap of about 500mm. I put my hands up and I said, “Elizabeth, can you drop down and I will catch you.” She dropped and I caught her, much to everybody’s relief. I still feel humbled by her act of faith!

  27. Unusually I am reading this at the end of the day instead of my usual time in the morning. It has been so comforting. Or son-in-law has Covid 19 in England He and our daughter are essential workers in the hospital so it was perhaps inevitable. But i know he is surrounded by love and prayers through this time of sickness and that is reassuring. Please keep him in your prayers too. He will continue to hold on in Christ’s embrace as he recovers. I am so happy these FFFs are continuing.

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