Author Archive

Welcome

May 22, 2018

I find it interesting that in today’s Gospel reading Jesus is speaking to his disciples about what it is to lead – to be a servant of all. Of all the different ways Jesus could choose to talk about service he chooses to illustrate what he is saying by speaking of welcome.

“If anyone wishes to be first,
they shall be the last of all and the servant of all.”
Taking a child, he placed it in their midst,
and putting his arms around it, he said to them,
“Whoever welcomes a child such as this in my name, welcomes me;
and whoever welcomes me,
welcomes not me but the One who sent me.

Here we are reminded that to to serve is to welcome.

This makes me wonder about the challenge of being welcoming – we can all welcome those who fit easily into our way of thinking, perceiving and acting… but we also all have experience of personalities that we find challenging or even downright odd!

To serve is to welcome. And to lead is to step beyond ourselves, our own comfort and preconceptions and to be a welcome for everyone. The proof of our welcome is not in the number of like-minded friends we have, but in the diversity of those who feel included.

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the “Universe,” a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

Einstein

104897-Marianne-Williamson-Quote-The-greatest-force-of-personal

The truth is not an idea but a person

May 16, 2018

…for the truth is not an idea but a person, Jesus Christ, who is also charity, or love.

Jesus_Christ_Pantocrator_Closed_Book_Hand-Painted_Orthodox_Icon_2_2

Having read Austin Ivereigh’s article “Discernment in a time of tribulation” published in Thinking Faith recently, I was struck particularly by this phrase; ‘the truth is not an idea but a person’. The article presents a reflection on the Pope’s response to the abuse scandal in Chile, but I think the points made can speak into so many situations of desolation.

When we discover despair creeping into a situation, when the only way for us to answer is to produce more and more intellectual argument, leading not to clarity but to anger and division, perhaps then we are called to remember the wisdom of Ignatius and not to follow down a line which leads further into desolation. Instead we are invited to refocus on where the truth lies – not simply in a reasoned argument taken from an (morally good) intellectual standpoint but in the person of Jesus, who is also charity and love.

 

The ordinary becomes extraordinary

May 4, 2018

Love shows itself more in deeds rather than words (Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius)

I was being served in a cafe today when suddenly the woman who was serving me added an extra tray and began to prepare cups and cutlery – I realised quickly that it was for an elderly couple who were coming in, who are obviously ‘regulars’. The woman then continued to serve me and I went to sit down. Just a few minutes later an elderly man with Downs syndrome came in, and again the staff in the cafe immediately gave attention to him, joking and chatting as he placed his order. The atmosphere was lovely – clearly this is a place where community is built and friendships are formed.

It made me reflect – sometimes we feel that the big important actions that we do are what is ‘saving the world’… but maybe in reality the world is being saved moment by moment by all the tiny actions of peace, unity and community building. The world is being saved one cup of tea at a time.

A-nice-cup-of-tea-Just-my-cup-of-tea-1024x675

Small Gestures

April 25, 2018

“This holiness to which the Lord calls you will grow through small gestures.”

Gaudete et Exsultate

In everyone’s life there are some significant and defining moments. Times of great joy or real pain when our life is changed and we discover something new about ourselves which sets us on a new path.

Most of life, however, is lived in ordinary things, in  being with family or friends, working, shopping, cooking, eating… If we believe that God is to be found in all things and in all aspects of our day, then most frequently God is to be found in these tiny mundane activities. God is to be found in the people around us, in the little (and ususally insignificant) actions, in the small gestures.

daisy

In the recent Apostolic Exhortation Gaudete et Exsultate, Pope Francis reminds us that holiness grows through these little moments, in the attitude we bring to these, in the kindnesses, forgiveness, mercy, tolerance we adopt.

Joy that orientates our life

April 16, 2018

sunrise

During these weeks of Easter we are invited to understand and experience resurrection, not as an historical moment or a exclusively divine event but as a presence and as joy. The risen Christ is utterly present with us, calls us by name (Jn 20:16), touches and is touched by us (Jn 20:27), walks along side us (Lk 24), heals, strengthens and encourages us (Jn 21). The Gospel stories of resurrection come into our daily lives and reality and we discover, within the ordinary events of our everyday lives, the presence of God.

It is this recognition of the indwelling of God, that now orientates our life.

It isn’t necessarily a bubbly happy joy, but a deep inner certainty that Christ is present and can be found in every encounter – nothing can ever be the same after this realisation – Christ is wholly present.

Michael Ivens in his book Understanding the Spiritual Exercises puts it this way:

..the grace … of the Fourth Week is joy. We are concerned with paschal joy, the joy proper to Easter, the joy which springs from a still more fundamental grace, that of the faith and love that make the risen Christ, though invisible, the very core of the believer’s existence. The prime object of paschal joy, then, is the here-and-now reality of the risen Christ.

Flowing from Christ, this joy has the typical effects of consolation. Consolation always moves a person to God’s service, towards apostolic mission, a source of strength, energy and courage to participate in the work of the Kingdom.

Pilgrimage to Lindisfarne

April 11, 2018

A group of FCJs and young adults are just back from a four day walking pilgrimage to Lindisfarne, a tidal island of the North East coast of England.

As we began our pilgrimage we were reminded of some elements of pilgrimage; prayerful preparation; silence and solitude. We prayed each day to remember that ‘although individuals, we travel with others…’ Our time together was full of joy, laughter, new friendships and lots of mud! Northumberland in spring is beautiful but it can be wet, and this year the snow has left the ground soaking and slippy! I don’t think our boots will ever be the same again!

 

Lindisfarne, also known as Holy Island, was a centre of Christianity from the 6th Century AD and the monks of Lindisfarne, including St Aidan and St Cuthbert brought Christianity to the north of England.

Durham Cathedral

Our pilgrimage took us along part of St Cuthbert’s Way, a national walking route, and across the ancient pilgrims causeway to Lindisfarne. At the end of the pilgrimage we travelled to Durham to visit the shrine of St Cuthbert in Durham Cathedral.

The Risen One

April 3, 2018

As I read the Resurrection stories from the Gospels I don’t find lots of certainty and immediate clarity, in today’s Gospel  John 20:11-18

christ-is-risen Mary is seeking Jesus who was placed within the tomb, and her confusion and grief when she discovers he is not there are understandable. When she meets the risen Jesus she fails to recognise him, and Jesus poses this question: “Who are you looking for?” Mary is looking for the dead, and yet Jesus is living. She is seeking in the wrong place. It is only when she hears Jesus speak her name that she hears something which calls her out of her old ideas and into a new way of understanding.

Easter, resurrection, challenges us to not look for Jesus simply in our own narrow perspective, but to be willing to meet him where he is now in his risen life. Christ is among the living, Christ brings life and hope where there was death and sorrow.

There is a song by Marty Haugen that I particularly love because it speaks of this shifting of perspective. It’s called ‘Song at the Empty Tomb’ (you can listen to a clip here but it only has the end so you miss the lyrics… )

Song at the Empty Tomb -Marty Haugen

Once you brought the dead into life,
your hands were healing and peace,
your words were fire and light,
your life was promise and feast.

Now you leave us trembling and weak,
no more the sureness of death,
No more the world that I knew,
life that is new with each breath.

Where now is the body you wore?
What is this dark empty hole?
Where is the One that I love?
Where is the fire of my soul?

You who were the truth of my life,
you now my fear and my hope,
Who shatters death and the grave,
who goes before me alone.

You who shake the earth and the stars,
who opens tombs in my soul,
Who knows my weakness and pain,
you tear and rend and make whole.

Here beyond the shadow of death,
here where the day breaks anew,
There is no future, but faith,
there is no promise but you.

Here in the midst of death,
we shall see the birth of life.
Now in the darkest hour,
we shall know the face of God.

Here in the midst of life, here within each fearful heart,
Now in each human form, you shall be the risen one.

Grant to us this day of your life,
when all your people shall see,
When death itself shall have died,
when we your kingdom shall be.
We your Kingdom shall be

Some images in Holy Week

March 28, 2018

I have been struck in recent days by how personal and tactile the events leading to the Passion are. The single, personal relationships and interactions. The choices of each individual in their relationship with God.

Mary anoints the feet of Jesus. Jn 12

bethanyWhen I have prayed with this passage in the past I have often focused on the ointment or oil or on the ‘fragrance filling the house’. This year however, I came across this image of The Anointing at Bethany by Daniel F. Gerhartz. In it Mary is utterly focused on Jesus, and in particular on her loving action towards him. Who she is is given to Jesus fully in this moment of her life. All of her attention, all of her love. She confirms it by touch.

“It is the one to whom I give the piece of bread” Jn 13

judas1.jpgIn Tuesday’s Gospel we see Jesus acknowledging the coming betrayal by Judas and denial by Peter. These are not simply people in the crowd – they are his closest companions, the ones he judas

breaks bread with. Judas meets Jesus day after day, listens to Him, receives bread at the last supper… and yet somehow he has remained separate. He has not understood the purpose and values of Jesus, and pursues his own agenda. We don’t know his motivation, but we might recognise his action.

“What are you prepared to give me if I hand him over to you?” Mtt 26

silver

Again today, Wednesday of Holy Week the Gospel focuses on the interaction between Jesus and Judas. the image I have chosen here is of the hand FULL of silver. Who knows the reality of this interaction, but if money changed hands it was done physically. Judas felt the short term gain, perhaps convincing himself too of a higher purpose.

In the ordinary concrete interactions of my life, how am I living out and expressing my relationship with Jesus?

 

The most important things

March 5, 2018

onionsWho is to say what is important and what isn’t? My diary for this week is full of interesting meetings and varied plans.

Yesterday though, I met a neighbour in the supermarket and we had a conversation, whilst standing by the onions, about grief and bereavement and kindness. The conversation lasted only a couple of minutes, but I guess it may turn out to be the most important thing of my week.

We spend so much time planning and being busy, and then these tiny gems of opportunity come our way in the most ordinary of situations, and we are given a choice – to recognise the value of the moment or to rush on past.

 

Life comes back

February 28, 2018

winter 2018London rarely sees snow, so yesterday and today have a magical quality with quite a good falling of powdery snow lying across most of the city. It is beautiful! It is also a reminder that winter hasn’t gone yet – the signs of spring are there but the cold has certainly returned!

The spring flowers peeping out through the snow in our garden are a good Lenten reminder. Sometimes life can get a bit buried, a bit overwhelmed and frozen – we can feel that we are in the depths of winter. These little signs of life through the frozen earth tell us that the pull of Spring is stronger – Life comes back. Lent ends in resurrection.