Tag Archives: Acts of the Apostles

21 March, Desert XXIV, Travelling with Pope Francis 5: giving makes us more human.

Pope Francis continues his thoughts on relationships as the vital centre of Christian and human life.

The dialogue that God wishes to establish with each of us through the paschal mystery of his Son has nothing to do with empty chatter, like that attributed to the ancient inhabitants of Athens, who “spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21). Such chatter, determined by an empty and superficial curiosity, characterizes worldliness in every age; in our own day, it can also result in improper use of the media.

Putting the paschal mystery at the centre of our lives means feeling compassion towards the wounds of the crucified Christ present in the many innocent victims of wars, in attacks on life, from that of the unborn to that of the elderly, and various forms of violence. They are likewise present in environmental disasters, the unequal distribution of the earth’s goods, human trafficking in all its forms, and the unbridled thirst for profit, which is a form of idolatry.

Today too, there is a need to appeal to men and women of good will to share, by almsgiving, their goods with those most in need, as a means of personally participating in the building of a better world. Charitable giving makes us more human, whereas hoarding risks making us less human, imprisoned by our own selfishness. We can and must go even further, and consider the structural aspects of our economic life. As the Church’s magisterium has often repeated, political life represents an eminent form of charity (cf. Pius XI, Address to the Italian Federation of Catholic University Students, 18 December 1927). The same holds true for economic life, which can be approached in the same evangelical spirit, the spirit of the Beatitudes.

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24 January, Church Unity Week: Unusual Kindness VII.

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This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

Changing our hearts and minds

And when Paul had gathered together a bundle of sticks, and had laid them on the fire, a viper coming out of the heat, fastened on his hand. And when the barbarians saw the beast hanging on his hand, they said one to another: Undoubtedly this man is a murderer, who though he hath escaped the sea, yet vengeance doth not suffer him to live. And he indeed shaking off the beast into the fire, suffered no harm. But they supposed that he would begin to swell up, and that he would suddenly fall down and die. But expecting long, and seeing that there came no harm to him, changing their minds, they said that he was a god. (28:3-6)

Reflection

Monster! The headlines tear like shards of glass through ripped reputations and tainted talents, to be heard no more.

Hordes! Names, stories, lives, compacted into an anonymised mass.  Contempt for care, rejection made righteous.

When will we turn and dare to see the sister in the surge of displaced existence, and the brother in the monster’s shame?

Prayer

Almighty God, we turn to You with repentant hearts. In our sincere quest for Your truth, purify us from our unjust opinions of others and lead the churches to grow in communion.

Help us let go of our fears, and so better understand each other and the stranger in our midst, and dare to love the rejected.

We ask this in the name of the Just One, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

The ancient painting of Saint Paul shaking off the viper can be found, though not by the casual viewer, in Saint Anselm’s Chapel, Canterbury Cathedral. MMB.

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22 January: Church Unity Week: Unusual kindness V.

sjc. big wave

This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

Keep Your Strength Up

“Just before daybreak, Paul urged all of them to take some food, saying, ‘Today is the fourteenth day that you have been in suspense and remaining without food, having eaten nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food, for it will help you survive; for none of you will lose a hair from your heads.’ After he had said this, he took bread; and giving thanks to God in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. Then all of them were encouraged and took food for themselves.” (27:33-36)

I love coffee but lost my appetite for it.

I love a good read of the bulky weekend paper but my brain had no space for it, too busy processing and preparing, harnessing the little energy reserves I had to face cannulas and PICC lines and nauseating chemo.

Every hair from my head would be lost but I’d be rescued from the storm, hopefully.

And when you can’t eat to keep your strength up because the chemo makes you sick on a Wednesday, you chew on the words that those who wait upon the Lord will renew their strength, they’ll rise up on wings like eagles, run and not grow weary, trusting that one day this broken body might rise again strong and supple scarred and scared.

Every hair of my head was lost but I’d be rescued from the storm, hopefully.

And as I look back these ten years hence, there wasn’t one set of footprints; there were hundreds of the friends and loved ones who visited, listened, cried, prayed and carried the body of Christ strengthening me. Every hair of my head was lost but I was rescued from the storm, thankfully.

Prayer

Loving God, Your Son Jesus Christ broke bread and shared the cup with His friends. May we grow in closer communion when we share our pain and suffering. Encouraged by St Paul and the early Christians, give us strength to build bridges of compassion, solidarity and harmony.

In the power of the Holy Spirit, we ask this in the name of Your Son, who gives His life that we might live. Amen.

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21 January: Church UnityWeek, Unusual Kindness IV

misericord.boat.st.davids

This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

An angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, stood by me this night, saying: Fear not, Paul, thou must be brought before Caesar; and behold, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer; for I believe God that it shall so be, as it hath been told me.And we must come unto a certain island. (27:23-26)

Adrift

I am floating and at sea

Without direction and fearful of what lies ahead

I come to You, known and yet unknowing

Unfathomable God

Rising and falling

Without bearings

bring me to a safe haven

a place where I can begin

to hope again

to trust again

in You and others.

Prayer

Almighty God, our personal suffering leads us to cry out in pain and we shrink in fear when we experience sickness, anxiety or the death of loved ones.

Teach us to trust You. May the churches we belong to be signs of Your providential care. Make us true disciples of Your Son who taught us to listen to Your word and to serve one  another.

In confidence we ask this in the name of Your Son, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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20 January, Church Unity Week: Unusual Kindness III.

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This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

Paul standing forth in the midst of them, said: be of good cheer. For there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but only of the ship … there shall not an hair of the head of any of you perish.’ (27:22, 34).

Reflection

Keep up your courage when the storms of life wash you up on an unexpected shore.14, 

Keep up your courage, take barricades down, welcome the stranger, become the guest.

Keep up your courage, listen to the other, seek to understand; disagree agreeably.

Keep up your courage when the ship runs aground, prepare a new vessel, chart another course.

Keep up your courage, stowaways, castaways: whatever our crew, it’s all hands on deck, creation made new.

Prayer

God of mercy, lost and disheartened, we turn to You.

Instil in us Your hope and courage.

May our churches strive for the unity for which Your Son prayed on the eve of His passion.

We ask this through Him who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit for ever and ever.

Amen.

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19 January: Church Unity Week, Unusual Kindness II.

murillo migrants

Image: Migrants waiting by Oscar Murillo, Turner Prize exhibition, Margate November 2019.

This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but please follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

And when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm lay on us, all hope of our being saved was now taken away. (27:20)

Reflection – Transfusion 

I believe another not Him.

A cup of bitterness taints my being.

My eyes fail me,

I lose the light and my life disengages and halts.

Movement, spied in my darkness frightens then brings relief. I am not dying alone but dying we are.

The battering storm of hope denied, will abandon us to fate.

A flicker flecks my blindness I fall prostrate as flecks materialise into Him, my true and tender Father.

Held in His unbreakable arms I still…

The storm may do its worst.

Slathered in His salve of love, Hope’s transfusion gently renews my being: Do not fear the pain; it sings the song of life.

Prayer

Father, Your precious word illumines our steps and without You we remain lost and disorientated.

Holy Spirit, teach us through Your word and each other to travel our Father’s path together, walking gently on Creation.

May each gathering of Your people in churches everywhere crave Your guiding, consoling and transforming presence.

Give us the honesty we need to recognise when we lose or obscure Your light for others. Give us grace to hold onto You, ready and able to share Your light.hrist’s light

We ask this in the name of Your Son Jesus, who calls us His followers, to be light to the world. Amen.

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18 January. Church Unity Week: Unusual Kindness I.

sjc. big waveImage provided by SJC.

This year’s reflections for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity were prepared by the Churches in Malta and Gozo. We are sharing elements of their prayers, but follow the link for the full resources for personal or community prayer.

Naturally, the Maltese Christians draw our attention to the story in Acts 27-28 of how Paul, a prisoner in chains, was among a group who survived being shipwrecked on Malta.

And we being mightily tossed with the tempest, the next day they lightened the ship. And the third day they cast out with their own hands the tackling of the ship. And when neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm lay on us, all hope of our being saved was now taken away. And after they had fasted a long time, Paul standing forth in the midst of them, said: You should indeed, O ye men, have hearkened unto me, and not have loosed from Crete, and have gained this harm and loss. (27:18-21)

Reflection

To live an untethered life means that we may well find ourselves at the mercy of wind and wave. Besieged by storm and circumstance, carried by the tide, thrown off course, we can find ourselves run aground, clinging to the hope – that we might loosen our grip of individual claim and right, and hold to a shared ownership of this rock of truth.

Prayer

Reconciling God, as we feel the pain of past mistakes, shy away and retreat to individual strongholds; help us surrender a false sense of who we are, all that tethers us, and all that we hold precious. Bind us to humility and compassion, as we learn together, to receive from You, abide in You and Your love. Amen.

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26 December: Sober this Christmas?

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I was looking for inspiration for Saint Stephen’s day, a martyrdom straight after the birth of baby Jesus. I also had an eye open for frankincense, because Abel is to play Caspar the Wise Man or King in the school Nativity play. Siesta is the obvious shop for such things in Canterbury and they did not disappoint: half a dozen sticks of frankincense, or so they claim were soon found and in my bag.

It was on my way out that I saw the card, the bright red was hard to ignore. The message on the front read, ‘What’s sobriety got to do with Christmas’, which reminded me of the ancient card or cracker joke: ‘be like the early Christians this Christmas, get stoned.’ Which brings us back to Saint Stephen, shown here with a pile of the stones people used to kill him. The statue is above the main door of his Church in Canterbury.

Already on Pentecost Day the Apostles had been accused of drunkenness because of their proclamation of the Good News (Acts 2:15). A few weeks later Stephen was arrested, and his words sound like a drunken illusion (Acts 7:56-60).

Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.

Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, and cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man’s feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, [who was] calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Even when stone-cold sober, people can act irrationally and sinfully; a sobering message indeed.

Let us pray for all our Christian sisters and brothers who are trying to live out their vocation as members of a minority, sometimes suspected of treason, open to accusations of blasphemy, and liable to suffer violence and murder.

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June 9: Pentecost, We hear them speak.

somers.town. pentecost

St Aloysius, Somers Town, London.

Two articles came before my eyes on the same day. In one, an English divorce lawyer said that the main cause of marriage breakdown was lack of communication: spouses not speaking to each other.

The other article was in the Columban Fathers’ Far East magazine for September 2018. Father Willie Lee, a Fijian missionary who has worked in Peru described how he was inspired by the missionaries who ‘were always there with the grassroots people, crossing boundaries and cultures and learning another language. It gave them a feeling of belonging.

‘The sacrifices they made in their calling, in their missionary life, amazed me. If these people can leave their family, come this far … and be happy on their mission, why can’t I do this?’

Learning another language is hard work, very few Pentecost morning experiences these days; if people are to hear us speaking their own language, we must first get close to them and learn to listen.

Let us pray for ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches.

To read the interview with Fr Lee by Mark Bowling see the message below from the Columbans’ Katie Howard:

We are so pleased to hear that you feature the Far East magazine in your blog. Please use link below and scroll down to ‘Past Issues’ where your readers can download the September/ October 2018 edition of the Far East:

https://columbans.co.uk/publications/far-east

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12 May. What is Theology Saying? XLIX: Church and World are not mutually exclusive.

 

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With our Lenten season we have set aside our long-running series from Traherne, the Little Flowers of Francis, and from Brother Austin. Let’s remedy that last one! There’s a challenge at the end: ‘I know that I can cope with the past because I am still here! So why risk the unknown?’

austinWe cannot contrast Church and World. They are not mutually exclusive. The Church is supposed to be the community that makes God’s promises already present. When we celebrate the sacraments this is a pledge to what we have committed ourselves as community. There is no work blueprint, we are called to be creative through the possibilities everyday life presents. The Church cannot hand-out a programme to us telling us exactly what to do, how to do it and where. The Bible has no such blueprint. We learn more about the future when we respond to what we already know and are presenting solutions accordingly.

The early Church, seen through Paul’s writing, took slavery for granted as a feature of society – while insisting that the slave-owner respect their human dignity. Centuries later we began to realise that we must abolish slavery itself, because slavery as such is opposed to human dignity. We are also coming to realise that what we often call works of charity can be more crushing than poverty itself, that we can eliminate poverty simply by providing jobs and incomes for all. In the same way war was seen as inevitable, and not only killing but torture was therefore justified. With the formation of the UN we are starting to glimpse that war is not inevitable – Paul VI said to the UN with powerful conviction no more war, war never again.

The truth is that the “signs of the times” are those offering the church ever new opportunities to go out and meet others. Individuals may well set out believing they are going to teach, but they will end up learning, as did Paul. The church is given endless opportunities to rediscover itself in ever new light, but they do not happen every day. At certain moments of privilege, the Spirit summons the church to risk: “During the night a vision came to Paul: a Macedonian stood there appealing to him: Cross over to Macedonia and help us”. Acts.16.9.

The “signs of the times” are the external evidence of this call to Discipleship of Christ. Reasoned observation and rational planning have a place. Reason is able to perceive certain things that suggest there are changes requiring further and new steps to be taken. Different moments of time have their own signs. Not everyone sees them. Jesus criticised the Pharisees because their wisdom in this regard was deficient: “It is a wicked and Godless generation that asks for a sign; and the only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah” – Mt.12.39. There are insensitive people in every age, unable [unwilling] to see the call for something new. To them mission is no more than simply repeating what has already been achieved. This is the fear principle, prompted by the fact that I know that I can cope with the past because I am still here! So why risk the unknown?

Reading  the Word and the World, Zakopane, Poland.

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