Somebody, a couple of weeks ago, asked me how I decided what I was either going to preach about, or how I decided what was going to be the subject of one of these reflections? It isn’t as if I have a list of subjects that I’m trying to work my way through, and neither do I have a particular agenda when it comes to deciding on the content, but I do take my inspiration and cues for a number of different sources.
When I am preaching at Mass, the homily is always preceded by the readings from scripture. These are a pretty much inexhaustible source of inspiration and direction for any homilist. Or it may be a particular feast of a saint, or a prominent event that is happening around that time. But whatever it may be, I always try and link it to a real life experience. There is so much that we can learn from our day to day experiences if we take a little bit of time to reflect on them.
However, there sometimes isn’t enough time to explore a particular subject in depth, and I find myself focusing for a couple of weeks, or more, on expanding one theme. I find that it can be useful to consider a theme from a number of different angles so that I can present hopefully a balanced and wider view of the subject. For example, in the past year I spent about 4 weeks considering the question of what does, “Love your Neighbour” mean? Different views of this included, Who is my neighbour? Can I choose my neighbours? How far does this love stretch? and, What if my neighbour doesn’t respond or respect me?
At another time I was able to focus on the concept of discipleship. Is this an old idea, or is it something that is equally important, and indeed viable, in our modern day world? What makes someone a disciple? Am I really a disciple of Christ in what I do and say?
These themes can all be linked to the simple events of everyday life. They are real on our streets and in our homes. If we are living with a connection to our faith, then it is part of everything we do - or perhaps it links with one of the other themes that I considered sometime ago when I asked myself if I totally live my faith, or do I find myself being selective, turning faith choices on and off to suit my situation?
I find that taking this approach helps me to properly reflect on the things that might be important in how I live out my particular journey of faith. So, if someone was to ask you what themes dominate your spiritual life, would you have a ready answer?
It is also interesting to note that often a question like that, tends to suggest that our ‘spiritual’ life is somehow different, or set aside, from our ‘everyday/normal’ lives. Whichever way we choose to phrase it, the two sides of life are inextricably linked, one cannot work without the other, and if they try too, it suggests we are not being true to either ourselves or our faith.
Exploring a theme in our lives can take a bit of time and is worth doing so, as it can help us to find a direction, or answer some questions that we might have. I am also an advocate of returning to a theme sometime later, perhaps even after a few years. I say this because our experiences, knowledge and attitudes change with time, therefore so does our understanding and the things that are important to us.
Perhaps now what be a good time to reflect and ask the Lord to guide us towards whatever is the prominent theme in our life at this moment. Inspiration may be found in scripture or other spiritual writings. We might look at TV or radio to guide us, or more importantly it might just be right in front of us, we only have to open our eyes.
I get to capture my thoughts and themes in homilies and reflections - what about you, ever tried writing a reflection?
Deacon Ian Black