Once all the bandages, plasters and cuddly toys had been cleared away from the children’s session (see below), the adults took their turn. We began with the same prayer as the children and then listened to the gospel and the reflection from the Lent materials.
As a group we noticed the following about the gospel:
There are echos of the Transfiguration here, with the mention of being glorified and the voice from Heaven. There is also a prefiguring of Gethsemane in Jesus’ words: “Now my soul is troubled. What shall I say: Father, save me from this hour? But it was for this very reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name!” Here we see the start of his preparation as the time of the Passion draws closer, the “Take this cup away” and the “Your will be done.”
There are also layers in this Gospel. When Jesus talks about the seed falling to the ground in order to bring a harvest, he is referring to his own death. However at one level, through the gospel story we are being spoken to. We walk the Passion with Jesus and as we watch him say “Your will be done” we can also reflect this in our lives. We are called to die to self and so going through Holy Week enables some of this process to take place. It is a form of martyrdom, in a small way. What needs to die in me so that I may walk closer to God? We never let go of everything all at once. It is a slow, organic process that takes time. God takes us at the speed we can go. This process of letting go isn’t even going to be finished on the day we die. This point took us neatly to the Eucharistic Reflection on praying for the faithful departed.
We listened to and read the text of GA Studdert Kennedy’s poem ‘Well” (in dialect poems if you follow the link) to begin our reflections. Then in silence people read some extracts on Purgatory. These included Bible verses (Ps 66: 10; Is 48:10; Dan 11:35; Zec 13:9; 1 Peter 1:17; Rev 3:18) and the extract on Purgatory from the Catechism. There was the blog extract that was used to plan the children’s session and a quote from C.S. Lewis. An extract from Margaret Silf on detachment were also available as were extracts from the ‘Lord of the Rings’ and ‘The Great Divorce’
Afterwards we had a wide ranging discussion, which took in Praying for the dead, Purgatory, Mass intentions, mass fees and indulgences. Here is a short summary of some of it:
The purging we think of doesn’t need to just happen after death. Our whole journey, from baptism can be one of refining and transformation. Suffering, if we let it can change us for the better when we let go of some of the things that stop us responding to God’s love. Time in eternity is different, in the way that Jesus’ resurrection body was different to his body before.
The Orthodox approach (on blogs at least) seems to be “We don’t know what happens after death, but praying for the dead has always been done.” This is about being Church. Maybe what goes on when we pray for the Faithful departed can’t be pinned down. It allows for the mystery of our faith.
The images of Heaven in ‘The Great Divorce” are interesting. The Ghosts from Hell are not solid enough in Heaven. Walking in the solid grass is painful. This isn’t punishment but they have to learn how to become part of reality and this is a painful process. In ‘Well?” the solider is faced with the painful reality of the things he has done. We carry all our baggage with us. Dying is a form of transformation, a final letting go or setting free from all the things about ourselves that bind us and cause us to sin. This cleansing is a good thing.
The House of Healing also offers a useful image. It is for those who, injured in the battle of Life need healing. ‘Judgment Day’ is part of this process. Do we want to be healed?
A question was raised then about Christ’s work on the Cross. Jesus’ work for us means that the way is open. We all have free will and so we have to walk the way. Anyone can reject God’s offer. So we are saved and we are being saved. It reflects the layers in the Gospel reading. There is Christ’s work, dying and rising and our response, the desire to die to self. In Christ’s Passion he makes clear the way to eternal life and it lies via the Cross to the Resurrection.
We finished our reflections with a meditation, including the following questions:
What do we cling to?
What do we need to let go of?
Can we count our blessings and then renounce them?
The Session ended with the Anima Christi.