Saving us from storms

Today’s Gospel tells the story of the calming of the storm.

Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!” He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.

Matthew 8:23–27

I often find it helpful to think of the way in which God saves me from my place in the midst of the storm. Seeking a way out of the storm and towards a more peaceful place, I can lose sight of another important message within the Gospel passage: Jesus is with us in the storm. It is this presence in the chaos of our storms that gives the promise of something beyond the storm.

Perhaps it is less that God saves us from experiencing storms (as wonderful as this might seem) but rather that God saves us by being present, witnessing and experiencing the storm alongside us, and promising hope – the storm will end.

No place for revenge

The Gospel for Sunday 26th June (Luke 9: 51-62), reminds us of the radical nature of the decision to follow Christ and to live according to the values of the Reign of God. We are invited to claim our call and to move forward with courage and hope. Jesus makes it clear that we are invited to look ahead and to leave the past behind. This is a wonderful opportunity to allow ourselves to be set free from all that holds us back. As we see from the way Jesus rebukes James and John for their murderous plans for the Samaritans, there is also no place for plotting or exacting revenge, in any circumstance. How relevant this text is for today. Despite being exposed to an unending stream of violent rhetoric and to unforgiving views on life, our call is to take the way of reconciliation and peace. We are called to pray, really pray, for our enemies and to want the best for them. It is only through this way of painful love that the Reign of God can be grown in our world.

Refugee Week

When we hear the words Refugee or Asylum Seeker we can think quite abstractly of the unknown faces we see on TV – our compassion is aroused but it is often difficult to feel we can act or make a difference. We may feel outraged and sign a few petitions, but for most of us that is as far as we can go.

In recent years in our community we have had the great privilege of being able to host asylum seekers -women from Pakistan, Gambia, Sri Lanka, Albania – Christians, Atheists and Muslims. Living alongside these women I have been struck often by the significance of the individual story, their joys, skills and hopes, their willingness to offer anything they can, their despair or depression, their forced patience as they wait for life to restart.

Each refugee, asylum seeker, or idp has a story, a family, dreams and hopes. The very least we can do is to make every effort to personalise the plight of so many of our brothers and sisters. When we consider the policies of our governments and politicians it would be helpful to give consideration to the text from todays liturgy:

Do to others whatever you would have them do to you. This is the Law and the Prophets.

Matthew 7:12

Figures from the UNHCR updated at the end of 2021 show that 89.3 Million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes. That is before the current war in Ukraine.

The ‘Figures at a Glance’ page is worth a look: https://www.unhcr.org/uk/figures-at-a-glance.html

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An act of HOPE

Last week I was driving with my elderly parents in the car when my dad told a story which struck me as a powerful act of hope.

Almost sixty years previously on the same stretch of road my dad pulled into the layby and put an engagement ring on his fiancés finger before taking her to meet his mother for the first time. He is from a very small English protestant family, my mum from a large Irish Catholic one. They were very much in love, but had hardly met (dad proposed to mum after meeting her twice!).

It strikes me that placing that ring on my mums finger was an act of hope and trust. The future was completely unknown, but the promise of commitment and love has paved the way for a wonderful life together. Almost sixty years later the world has changed beyond recognition but they are still very much in love, have a happy and close family and loving grandchildren.

Commitment and choice is an act of Hope in an uncertain world.

Pray for the nations

One of our sisters, Rachel, recently used this beautiful phrase in a What’sApp comment, and it has stayed with me, inspiring me to pray, to ‘pray for the nations’. Isn’t this indeed an urgent task of our time? Any time we turn to the news we learn of nations in need. Every nation is in need of something, for example: of various forms of peace; of nourishment, be it material or spiritual; of freedom; or of a life-style that promote health and well being. I am sure that most of us are also praying for an end to violence – an end to war, an end to acts of terrorism, an end to indiscriminate killings, and an end to physical and verbal abuse. It is good to know that we are praying together. Let us pray for the nations, for our planet and for all of our futures.

To be ‘into peace’ for the long haul…

We all know that if we want true, deep and lasting peace across the world this is no easy achievement – it is a constant endeavour, the work of many lifetimes. What can we do but continue? Indeed we must continue to pray for peace, to advocate for peace, to live as agents of peace. I challenge myself to try as hard as I can to promote peace and to seek peace in every aspect of my own life. I challenge myself to always ask for forgiveness and to forgive others. In these times, when many instances of bitter conflict have torn and fractured the beauty and peace of our world – we have no option but to pray and strive for peace – and to keep on praying, keep on striving…

A unique and special place in the mind of God

Last weekend we celebrated Good Shepherd Sunday which is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. The church invites every one of us in these days to consider our particular vocation. Who is the person we are called to be?

Pope Francis has sent a letter to the worldwide Church  – here is a little bit of it:

All of us are called to share in Christ’s mission to reunite a fragmented humanity and to reconcile it with God. Each man and woman, … receives, with the gift of life, a fundamental calling: each of us is a creature willed and loved by God; each of us has a unique and special place in the mind of God.

 At every moment of our lives, we are called to foster this divine spark, present in the heart of every man and woman, and thus contribute to the growth of a humanity inspired by love and mutual acceptance. We are called to be guardians of one another, to strengthen the bonds of harmony and sharing, and to heal the wounds of creation lest its beauty be destroyed.

Pope Francis – Letter for the World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Our vocation is about being the person God has called us to be as fully as we can. A lovely reflection I read recently said

God looked at the world and thought

it needed one of you!

If the message of Jesus is to get beyond the doors of the church it needs each one of us to be a carrier of it. We are called to be someone who brings light, to find joy in life and to speak words of hope in the broken and hurting places of our world.

In the Gospel for Vocations Sunday Jesus talks about himself… he knows his purpose exactly. He knows what he is about… when he says he is the good shepherd he knows that there is a cost to that… that it demands something of him – but it also describes who he is.

For each of us, I believe, there is something that describes us, that enables us to be more fully ourselves, that might contain challenges and even sacrifices, but that is basically worth giving everything for. The Pope, in his message to the church for today says that  each of us has a unique and special place in the mind of God … somehow we believe that God creates and loves each one of us, and that the person we can be, Our Vocation, cant be fulfilled by anyone else.

I am a religious sister – an FCJ – Faithful Companion of Jesus – People often ask me “did you always want to be a nun?” or  – No! I don’t think it was all that clear until I actually made the first step. I think God calls us through all the choices we make, and in all the events of our lives.

I love religious life, I love being a sister – I often wake up and feel excited about what the day will bring! For me that is a sign of my vocation. It’s how I know that I am in the right place –Jesus has called each one of us to feel truly alive.

Sometimes things aren’t easy – religious life isn’t (as some people seem to think) a get out clause from reality: I work hard, I live away from my family, I could be, and have been, asked to leave a place I love and go to work in another place knowing no-one, but there is something bigger than me that makes it worth doing. I make the sacrifices freely because they are part of living out of who I am.

Religious life is a life in community , we pray together, we share meals and everyday things together – we know each other well and support each other. It’s a life that involves others – our resources and money are shared in common for the good of people who need them. We have sisters in 15 different countries across all the continents!

Religious life is at its very root a way of living a very personal relationship with God.

When I first told people that I wanted to be a sister, quite a few were against the idea – they said that I could do all the same things without being religious – and YES I could, and yet this whole way of life, this commitment of my whole life to seeking God is what makes me the person I think I am called to be.

For each of us there is something that is worth giving our lives for … maybe a partner, a child… maybe a particular job. There is something that inspires us … something that makes us feel Jesus’ call to live our life to the full… so I invite you to spend a moment wondering what that is in your life….

I am going to close with a prayer which perhaps describes vocation better than I can….

Nothing is more practical than finding God, that is, than falling in love in a quite absolute, final way. What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything. It will decide what will get you out of bed in the morning, what you will do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.

Fall in love; stay in love, and it will decide everything.

Attributed to Pedro Arrupe SJ

Praying for peace around the world

I was stunned to discover recently that, currently, there are at least seventeen cases of active conflict happening in various parts of the world. The scenes in Ukraine that shock us on a daily basis are representative of similar horrors faced by children, women and men in other places torn apart by violence. Our world, surely, needs us to strive for peace in any way we can. We cannot afford to lose hope, we must continue to pray and work for peace, without ceasing.

The Passion of Jesus played out in homes, in gardens, on roads, in streets…

Yet again, our news reports are dominated by heartbreaking scenes that vividly portray the devastating consequences of war. For Christians, this adds an even greater pathos to Holy Week, as we remember the suffering and death of Jesus. The suffering in Ukraine and Myanmar is representative of the pain that exists in so many parts of our world, the pain that so many people experience. As we walk with Jesus this week, we also walk with all those who are suffering. May we do all we can to work for a peaceful end to war; to work for an end to suffering; and to strive for a peaceful, plentiful life for all.

Each person is precious

The horror of war, famine, suffering that we see daily on our screens can be overwhelming. I feel strongly that we are called to stay present, to stand at the foot of this cross, largely powerless except in bearing witness.

I have been very moved in recognising in the widespread horror, the individual person, with their life, hopes, family, work and story. Each one of these people we see suffering (or indeed inflicting the suffering) is a person, they have a life and history.

Two days ago a grainy image was shown of a man on a bike who had been shot. That man was cycling, perhaps for food, or to visit a relative… he had bought that bike, he possibly used it to cycle to work. He had friends, family. He is more than just the satellite image showing an atrocity.

We are called to bear witness, not simply to the war, but to the lives.

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