Yesterday, thanks to Sister Johanna Caton OSB we saw Matthew getting up from his desk in the tax office to follow Jesus. Today Canon Anthony Charlton invites us to walk with the two disciples who were making for Emmaus on the first Easter Day. Taken from Saint Thomas’ Canterbury website, which invites us to share its reflections.
The disciples are walking away from Jerusalem. Walking away from the three years they has spent in the company of the one their believed to be the Messiah, the Christ. But he had been crucified and buried and their hope and dreams had been buried with him. No wonder they were downcast. Their belief in Jesus has been shattered. They were walking back to their old way of life. They were leaving behind the new life that they had embraced.
Jesus joined them. They didn’t recognise him. He sensed their sadness and asked them why they were sad. They responded by relating all that had happened and they shared with him their hopes and dreams. “Our own hope had been that he would be the one to set Israel free.” Jesus listened as they opened their hearts to him. Only when he had listened did he respond by going the through the scriptures. “Then, starting with Moses and going through all the prophets, he explained to them the passages throughout the scriptures that were about himself.” These were scriptures they were familiar with. They had learnt these from their youth. Coming from Jesus they seemed to hear them anew almost as of they were hearing them for the first time. They said later: “Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked to us on the road and explained the scriptures to us?”
Why not in your mediation and prayer tell Jesus what you are experiencing. Perhaps telling him what is making you sad and unhappy about your calling, your way of life. Share with him your disappointments and then let the Scriptures shed light on what are your concerns. Is the way I see things the only way? “Let Jesus words work on all the thoughts that occur to you today”
Lord help me to understand the sufferings and disappointments that I experience. I believe that you lead me into everything, that God the Father carries me in the palm of his hand. Help me to understand what you are telling me, what you have in mind for me? Show me your way.
Today we remember the Exaltation, or lifting up, of the Holy Cross. Our reflection is from Canon Anthony Charlton of Canterbury, England.
After the fiery serpents, sent by God, whose bite killed many in Israel, (Numbers 21: 4-9) Moses pleaded with God and he commanded Moses “Make a fiery serpent and put it on a standard. If anyone is bitten and looks at it he shall live.” Anyone bitten who gazed on the bronze serpent, lived.
In the gospel Jesus says that “when you have lifted up the Son of Man then you shall know I am he.” (John 8:28) Just as the bronze serpent gives life so the cross, an instrument of torture and death gives life. In John 12:32 we read “And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself.”
May we grow in wonder at the cross that shows us the extent of Jesus love for us. On the cross he endured every kind of suffering to show his solidarity with us.
May all who are suffering in anyway recognise that Jesus is a companion who has shared their journey. May the cross that was once a cursed thing and transformed by Jesus into a tree of blessing, be a source of comfort and peace to all.
Canon Father Anthony, Parish Priest, St Thomas’, Canterbury.
Here is a recent sermon by Rev Jo Richards of Canterbury, from the texts: Genesis 15:1-6, Hebrews 11.1-3, 8-16. Luke 12:32-40. It makes for another reflection on life, death and what faith means.
The Train has come and I’m on my way,
I didn’t need a ticketAnd there was nothing to pay.
My lass will be waiting, on that I am sureWhat a wonderful meetingWith a future that will endure.
On Thursday I took a funeral of a local man; Bill and he wrote poems; he asked that The Last Poem, be read at his funeral, which was read in full just before the commendation: I have read to you with the family’s permission the opening verses.
I knew Bill, and in his writing, there is such a sense of moving from this mortal life to the next, that is eternal life. For Bill was assured of things hoped, for the conviction of things not seen. Bill had a deep Christian faith
Bill had a sense of the hope, of knowing that one day the train would stop, he would get on board and continue his onward journey to eternal life.
Abraham was also a man of deep faith and also on a journey. Here we have someone in his mid-seventies, who heard a call from God to up sticks with his barren wife Sarah and leave home. Obedient to God’s call they became nomads, setting off from Harran, which is in modern day Iraq, travelling through Syria, down to Egypt, and then up to the land of Canaan, which is in the present-day West Bank, in Palestine.
During this time, directed by God, Abraham gazes at the night sky trying in vain to imagine his descendants as numerous as the stars, whilst Sarah, his wife remains heartbreakingly barren.
I wonder what Abraham and Sarah must have been thinking; surely they must have had doubts along the way, of perhaps being cross with God, who has taken them out of what has been familiar and comfortable and sent them on this journey into the unknown, and then telling them they will have children, but despite this they had faith in what God said and set off and set off.
I want us to think for a moment what does our faith mean to us? Would we have done what Abraham and Sarah did?
Perhaps like Bill and Abraham we are on a journey of faith; assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen; but that is not always easy to describe when asked what your faith means to you.
Some might describe their faith in terms of creeds and as we do when we recite the creed; From a doctrinal or theological perspective. At baptism either the godparents or those who speak for themselves are asked about their faith and what they believe.
How do you describe your faith?
Faith is perhaps turning our heads and looking at the stars that sense of awe and wonder, that sense that there is something far greater than what we can see, feel or hear, yet we are still loved and cherished by God our creator.
Faith is perhaps that sense of knowing deep within ourselves knowing that we are not alone, that there is a greater presence of which we get glimpses of from time to time;
Faith is perhaps that longing for the eternal home – that place of peace, love and joy where there are no more suffering or tears. That place we call heaven, eternal life. That feeling of longing, and desire; for Abraham and Sarah their faith took them on a perilous journey, to take them where God was leading, not that they knew where they were going or how they would get there.
Faith is not a destination, more like a journey, and we often say we are all on a journey of faith, with each of us on a different point of that journey; some are just setting out whilst others more established but we can all sometimes be thrown off course, just as Peter was when he was walking on water. He took his eyes off Jesus and sank in the sea, but Jesus put his arm out and caught him.
But I am sure like Peter and doubting Thomas, our faith may have wobbled, and we may have had doubts. Thomas was with Jesus for three years and yet he doubted that he had been raised from the dead, which perhaps gives us permission to question or even doubt at times.
And perhaps when we do question or doubt then something might happen that reaffirms our faith; just this week I heard of how someone had their faith restored by an act of kindness; it is often the little things that we do or say that can have such a big impact on others. Time and time again we hear of people saying I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have my faith.
Perhaps the opposite of faith is not doubt, but apathy – of not being alert and awake, as our Gospel suggests, of staying put and not willing to journey forth; Faith in a way is a response to an invitation to a journey of adventure; it’s not blind faith. We nurture our faith through worship, scripture, talking to other people, praying and for those small what I call God moments – moments when we sense God’s promptings and act on them.
Twice in this week’s readings we hear the words do not be afraid, by nurturing our faith it gives us the strength to face things that may frighten us or make us anxious. We can draw on these moments of remembering that God is with us in the everyday stuff as well as the ups and downs of life. As did the servants in our gospel reading, who were faithful doing the everyday mundane things, and ended up as the master’s guests at the great celebration.
Faith is perhaps a knowledge of God and a deep rooted heart felt desire to want to know God better – to find out what God is doing and join in, just as Bill did, Abraham and Sarah did, and the master’s slaves did.
So, we venture forward on our journey of faith may we give thanks for what we have already experienced of God’s love for us and what is still to come…and give thanks for the gift of faith, as we reflect upon what our faith means to us.
From Canon Anthony Charlton of Saint Thomas, Canterbury, a further reflection on respect for the bodies of the dead.
Last month, Fr John and I were at St. George’s Cathedral, Southwark, for Solemn Evening Prayer in honour of St John the Apostle and Evangelist and the Rites of Re-internment for the body of Bishop John Butt who had been buried in the aisle of the seminary chapel where we both trained. He founded the seminary in 1891. As you know St John’s Seminary closed last year.
Along with Bishop Butt’s body was the heart of Cardinal Francis Bourne which had been placed in the wall of the side altar of St Francis de Sales in the Seminary Chapel. Francis Bourne had been appointed first rector of the seminary by Bishop Butt. It had been his request that his heart be placed in the seminary when he died.
Showing due respect for these mortal remains emphasises that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. Cardinal Nicols said these words of committal:
In the sure and certain hope
of the resurrection to eternal life
through our Lord Jesus Christ,
we commend to almighty God our brothers John and Francis
and commit their mortal remains to their resting place.
The Lord bless them and keep them,
the Lord make his face shine upon them,
and be gracious unto them,
the Lord lift up his countenance upon them
and give them peace.
Canon Anthony announced today that Sister Margaret McGrath died yesterday. She had been part of the Franciscan International Study Centre for many years, including a time as principal. She supported Agnellus’ Mirror and offered us a number of reflections. This is the last post that we published. It forms the final part of her reflection on the way of penance, Franciscan style and came out in Lent last year, 2021. To begin with the first of her posts click here, the rest follow on using the arrows above the photograph.
Thank you again, Sister! The last sentence is enough to ponder on.
We, as Franciscans, have been invited to join the way of penance. At times we will fail, for it is not always easy to turn away from ourselves, or to turn away from the values of the world which are, for the most part, so different from the values of God.
When we do fail it is then, more than ever, that we need to turn to God and tell him we are sorry and carry on in our journey of penance – our journey of love, our soul’s journey into God.
Margaret’s journey through this life is over; may she rest in peace and rise in glory!
This early XIX Century angel watched over a grave in Wales which was accidentally broken during works to the Churchyard. It serves as an introduction to this extract from the City of God by the Bishop of Hippo, Saint Augustine. He is writing as the Roman Empire is collapsing across Europe and the Mediterranean, including his native North Africa. There is much violence and bodies of the dead lie unburied, much to the distress of his people. But God can and will restore and reunite soul and body, however broken, scattered and desecrated the latter may have been.
Before turning to Augustine, let’s pray for all those buried in Saint Tydfil’s churchyard, and all buried without a marker, even without a mourner. Augustine begins his reflection with the story of Dives and Lazarus from Luke 16.
His crowd of domestics furnished the purple-clad Dives with a funeral gorgeous in the eye of man; but in the sight of God that was a more sumptuous funeral which the ulcerous pauper received at the hands of the angels, who did not carry him out to a marble tomb, but bore him aloft to Abraham’s bosom.
The men against whom I have undertaken to defend the city of God laugh at all this. But even their own philosophers have despised a careful burial; and often whole armies have fought and fallen for their earthly country without caring to inquire whether they would be left exposed on the field of battle, or become the food of wild beasts. Of this noble disregard of entombment poetry has well said: “He who has no tomb has the sky for his vault.” How much less ought they to insult over the unburied bodies of Christians, to whom it has been promised that the flesh itself shall be restored, and the body formed anew, all the members of it being gathered not only from the earth, but from the most secret recesses of any other of the elements in which the dead bodies of men have lain hid!
From “City of God: 1:12 by Saint Augustine, via Kindle.
The artists of Strasbourg Cathedral certainly believed that, ‘He descended into Hell, on the Third Day he rose from the dead, he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father from whence he shall judge the living and the dead’. Here it is, the harrowing of Hell, and our first parents the first to be rescued, blessed with beautiful, renewed bodies; a powerful envisioning of the threshold of eternal life.
Perhaps we find it harder to imagine that moment than our forebears did, but perhaps we should go past the abstract in thinking about eternity. There is still room in this brave new world for Christ to lead Adam by the hand, physically; and for Adam to half turn to his wife, to hold her hand, and feel her physical arm encircling his back. They are just as human, and more so, than when they first lived upon earth. And so will we be transformed.
Sometimes a pause in our pilgrims’ or tourists’ way can be enlightening; sometimes a photograph yields a more than passing thought when looked at anew in the armchair. Here is a processional Cross in Saint Edmundsbury Cathedral which we did not follow in procession; however, a closer, leisurely look tells a story.
The arrows that killed Edmund, King of the English, surround the Cross on which Jesus, the King of the Jews, the King of Glory, was killed. The Cross itself seems alive, aflame, reminding us that Jesus made the one sacrifice on Calvary, burning away sin, leading us to heaven.
Edmund’s arrows are subordinate to the Cross. This does not belittle his martyr’s sacrifice, but puts it into the context of Saint Paul’s bold assertion in Colossians 1:24: in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.
The Church itself is represented by the diocesan coat of arms, including the triple crown of Edmund’s kingdom of East Anglia. This Cross is not just a decorative object but also a statement of faith at both a local and universal level.
We have not all sailed through the pandemic without hurt, illness and loss. These words from Fr Brian D’Arcy offer a chance to reflect on our recent experience and on what comes next in our lives, the decisions we are making day by day.
Time is a non-renewable resource; so, we should spend it wisely by keeping life in a proper perspective. It means making choices about what is essential and what is not.
Covid gave many of us a renewed sense of our own mortality. It made the possibility of death undeniable. It is one of the contradictions of our culture that we do everything in our power to deny our own mortality; yet by denying death we actually give it increased power over us.
As we continue to integrate the lessons Covid taught us, we’ll acknowledge our mortality in wise and healthy ways. We need to give death its rightful place – and there’s nothing morbid about that. It helps us to be aware of how fleeting life is. It makes us more grateful every day for the precious time we have and it makes me humbler about the things I might have achieved. Since I now know my life is brief I ought to reflect long and hard on what I do with it. How I spend my hours determines how I spend my days and how I spend my days is how I spend my life.
So let us reflect together in prayer:
Lord, help me to use the gift of time wisely. “What is life?” St James asks, “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:15). Guide me to spend less time on social media and more time seeking your truth; less time chasing success and more time seeking your peace.
May I see each day as a special gift from you. I do not know what tomorrow will bring but with your help and guidance, I will become humbler, gentler and more compassionate. Hear and answer this prayer Lord, in your own time. AMEN
All through the remaining days
Your heart must have murmured, Abba.
Familiar, anxious for you,
Their voices, soft in your company
Lingering, hesitating to leave your side,
Sensing unknowingly the closeness
Of your Abba.
Their bond as yet untested,
Gathered in love’s security
Accepting their offering
Just to be with them
These final days.
Your constant silent murmur for them,
This Lily Crucifix is striking. The figure of Christ is bleeding yet not broken; indeed he looks vigorous. The cross, too, is not dead wood but a lily of the field, full of sap and flowering. It’s not a canna – the one we usually call an Easter Lily – but an Easter Lily for all that. Christ, the wounded Christ, is risen! Immediately below the lily cross the church has placed the tabernacle or aumbry, housing the wafer that Christians recognise as the body of Christ.
Scattered across the wall are five-petalled pink flowers, surely wild roses like the one below. Or are they stars, their numbers counted by Him alone? Earth’s astronomers keep on counting more and more of them as their instruments look ever further, but they seem to have given up on names, instead allotting numbers to the innumerable golden grains they perceive and whose vastness they measure from light years away. They know they will never reach the end of the numbers but they trust that their work is valuable. It is valuable, for it is awe inspiring.
Here is Christina Rossetti, saying all this and more, with greater eloquence than your correspondent!
Leaf from leaf Christ knows; Himself the Lily and the Rose
Leaf from leaf Christ knows; Himself the Lily and the Rose:
Sheep from sheep Christ tells; Himself the Shepherd, no one else:
Star and star He names, Himself outblazing all their flames:
Dove by dove, He calls To set each on the golden walls:
Drop by drop, He counts The flood of ocean as it mounts:
Grain by grain, His hand Numbers the innumerable sand.
Lord, I lift to Thee In peace what is and what shall be:
Lord, in peace I trust To Thee all spirits and all dust.