This post and the next two link to articles in Hallam News, the newspaper of the Roman Catholic diocese based in Sheffield, Yorkshire.They could help us as we find our feet again as worshipping communities. Click on the link for the first two steps.
At the annual gathering of the priests of the Hallam Diocese in October 2018 the speaker was Tom O’Loughlin, Professor of Historical Theology at Nottingham University. Tom gave the priests of the diocese Six Simple Steps which could go some way to achieving Vatican II’s vision in our celebration of the Eucharist. Today we take a look at the first two.
Step1: Abandonusing the tabernacleattheEucharist
Step 2: Have a real Fraction (the Breaking of the bread)
“Go and bear fruit, fruit that will last” John 15:16
Genesis 18:1-5Abraham hosts the angels at the Oak of Mamre
Mark 6:30-44Jesus’ compassion for the crowds
When we let ourselves be transformed by Christ, his love in us grows and bears fruit. Welcoming the other is a concrete way of sharing the love that is within us. Throughout his life, Jesus welcomed those he met. He listened to them and let himself be touched by them without being afraid of their suffering.
In the gospel account of the multiplication of the loaves, Jesus is moved with compassion after seeing the hungry crowd. He knows that the entire human person must be nourished, and that he alone can truly satisfy the hunger for bread and the thirst for life. But he does not wish to do this without his disciples, without that little something they can give him: five loaves and two fish.
Even today he draws us to be co-workers in his unconditional care. Sometimes something as small as a kind look, an open ear, or our presence is enough to make a person feel welcome. When we offer our poor abilities to Jesus, he uses them in a surprising way. We then experience what Abraham did, for it is by giving that we receive, and when we welcome others, we are blessed in abundance.
“It is Christ himself whom we receive in a guest.”
[The rule of Taizé in French and English (2012) p. 103]
“Will the people we welcome day after day find in us men and women radiant with Christ, our peace?”
[The Sources of Taizé (2000) p. 60]
Jesus Christ, we desire to welcome fully
the brothers and sisters who are with us.
You know how often we feel helpless in the face of their suffering,
yet you are always there ahead of us
and you have already received them in your compassion.
Speak to them through our words,
support them through our actions,
and let your blessing rest on us all.
When you meet new people do they find you “radiant with Christ”?
As we pray together for greater unity how are we showing Christ’s welcome to other Christians?
Yesterday we were looking at the feeding of the five thousand. If you weren’t here, perhaps it would be a good idea if you scrolled back to it. I would like to take a different tack now, and look at the miracle from the angle of its healing effect on Jesus’ disciples. I had been unable to get them out of my head yesterday in my lectio of this passage. Neither had Jesus, it would seem.
As we saw in yesterday’s post, the disciples had been left in a state of miserable suspension the whole day. News of John the Baptist’s execution had made them deeply sad, and it also would have made them feel the bite of fear. Would this kind of thing happen to Jesus? To them? The needy crowd had seemingly absorbed all of Jesus’ attention and energy, just when the disciples needed him most. Or so it might have seemed to the Twelve.
But Jesus does eventually give the disciples the reassurance they need. He does not forget them. He includes them most wonderfully in this miracle of the feeding of the five thousand. How? First, Jesus takes the disciples’ insufficiency (five loaves, two fish, and no joy) and turns it into a joyful feast of such lavish proportions that the leftovers alone could have fed a small village. And this stupendous feat is performed right under the disciples’ noses: they have front-row seats, and are able to see this miracle, and behold its wonder close-up. What could be more healing?
Then, in obedience to Jesus, they distribute the food. They’re the ones who receive everybody’s thanks, therefore, and they were probably given the credit for the meal being delicious and plentiful. What must this have been like for the disciples? Their wonder as the food kept coming: enough, and more than enough for five thousand, not even counting women and children? Did they begin to weep as they kept reaching into the basket of bread that never emptied? Did they laugh? Become giddy? Exchange stunned glances with each other across the crowds, as it gradually dawned on the Twelve that they were in the middle of a mind-boggling miracle? In any case, they were taken by surprise, once again, by Jesus, and in the process, healed of their grief as their joy in the miracle builds; they are strengthened physically and emotionally, and released from their fear by witnessing this manifestation of Jesus’ prodigious compassion and power. I imagine that they were never the same after this miracle.
And now I’m able to look at the question of what this says to me about the Lord’s work in my life. As my thoughts have moved more fully into the events recounted here by Matthew, I’ve become aware of the fact that Jesus heals his disciples ‘obliquely,’ in this instance. They don’t actually sit down with Jesus in a quiet and lonely place as they had all planned, and talk and cry and do whatever else they wanted to do to express their grief over John the Baptist’s death. Jesus had wanted this for them; there is nothing wrong with it. But circumstances took their course, and did not allow it. Jesus will not forget them, though: he remains concerned about them, and ultimately reaches their grief in a surprising way, by involving them in his miraculous work of feeding people.
When I think of this in relation to my life-experience, this story speaks of the healing power of the Eucharist in my life. Life does not always provide an opportunity for emotional healing that addresses my wounds in the way I had planned – if I even had any plans. But just as Jesus did not forget his disciples that day, Jesus does not forget me. He is present in the Eucharistic meal, and through it, has dealt compassionately with the wounds and the grief I have carried at different stages in my life. Through the Eucharist, and through my full experience of being part of the community of the Church formed by the Eucharist, Jesus has been transforming my insufficiency into something capable of providing a joyful meal. This is ongoing, but it is a joy that can still take me by surprise, because it usually comes from a direction I do not expect. But the joy is real, and will deepen as I acknowledge it and allow the deep wonder of it to well up like a spring in my heart.
Saint Francis must have taken some looking after! His quest to live a more simple life must have worried his companions who, after all, had joined his company to be with him, among other motives.
Saint Francis sought how he might find a place wherein he might the more solitary keep the forty days’ fast of Saint Michael the Archangel, which beginneth with the feast of the Assumption. wherefore he called unto him Brother Leo; and said: “Go and stand in the doorway of the Oratory where the brothers lodge, and when I call thee, return to me again.”
So Broth Leo went and stood in the doorway; and Saint Francis withdrew himself a little space, and called aloud. Hearing him call, Brother Leo returned to him again, and Saint Francis said to him: “Son, let us seek for another more secret place, where thou canst not hear me when I call.” And as they searched, they found on the side of the mountain that looked towards the south, a lonely place and very proper for his purpose, but they could not win there because in front there was a horrible and fearful cleft in a huge rock. Therefore with great pains they laid a piece of wood over it as a bridge and got across to the other side.
Then Saint Francis sent for the other brothers and told them how he was minded to keep the forty days’ fast of Saint Michael in that lonely place, and therefore he besought them to make him a little cell there, so that no cry of his could be heard by them. And when the cell was made, Saint Francis said to them: ” Go ye to your own place, and leave me here alone, for, with the help of God, I am minded to keep the fast here, without disturbance or distraction, and therefore let none of you come unto me, nor suffer any lay folk to come to me. But, Brother Leo, thou alone shalt come to me, once a day, with a little bread and water, and at night once again at the hour of Matins, and then shalt thou come to me in silence, and when thou art at the bridge-head, thou shalt say; “Domine, labia mea aperies”1 ; and if I answer thee, cross over and come to the cell, and we will say Matins together, and if I answer thee not, then depart straightway.” And this Saint Francis said because at certain times he had been so rapt in God, that he nor heard nor felt aught with the bodily senses. And again Saint Francis gave them his blessing and they went back again to their own place.
1Lord, open my lips. The first words of the Divine Office.
We continue celebrating Saint Francis with a series about life on Mount Alvernia, where he and a few companions lived a hermit existence. Francis and his companions are setting up a camp in the woods on the mountainside on land made available by a local landowner, Orlando.
Orlando, hearing that Saint Francis with three companions had climbed up the mount of Alvernia for to dwell there, rejoiced with exceeding great joy, and on the following day set out with many of the folk of his castle, and came to visit Saint Francis, bringing with him bread and wine and other victuals for him and his companions; and being come there, he found them at prayer, and drawing near unto them, saluted them.
Then Saint Francis arose, and with great love and gladness gave welcome to Orlando and his company, and this done, they sat them down to have speech of each other. And after they had spoken together, and Saint Francis had given him thanks for the holy mountain that he had given him, and for his coming thither, he besought him that he would let build a poor little cell at the foot of a fair beech tree, the which was a stone’s throw from the place where the brothers lived, for that place seemed to him very fit and hallowed for prayer. And straightway Orlando let build it and this done, as it was drawing near unto evening and it was time for them to depart. Saint Francis preached unto them a little, before they took leave of him.
When he had preached unto them and given them his blessing, Orlando, finding he must needs depart, called Saint Francis and his companions aside, and said unto them: “My brothers most dear, I would not have you suffer any bodily want in this wild mountain, whereby you might the less be able to give heed to spiritual things : and therefore I desire, and this I say to you for once, for all, that ye securely send to my house for whatsoe’er ye need, and if ye do otherwise, I shall take it ill of you.” And this said, he departed with his company and returned to his castle,
‘Then Saint Francis bade his companions to sit down and taught them what manner of life they ought to lead, both they and whoso desireth to live the religious life in a hermitage. And among other ‘things, he straitly laid on them the observance of holy poverty, saying: “Take not such heed unto the charitable offer of Orlando, lest ye in any thing offend our Lady and Madonna, holy poverty. Be sure that the more we despise poverty, the more will the world despise us, and the more shall we suffer want; but if we cling to holy poverty with a close embrace the whole world will follow after us and abundantly provide for us. God called us into this holy Order for the salvation of the world, and hath made this pact between us and the World, that we give unto the World a good example and the World make provision for our needs. Let us then persevere in holy poverty, seeing that this is the way of perfectness and is an earnest and pledge of eternal riches.”
During May, we pray that deacons, faithful in their service to the Word and the poor, be an invigorating symbol for the whole Church.
Jesus became bread broken for us, and He asks us to give ourselves to others, no longer to live for ourselves, but for one another. – Pope Francis
Francis mentions bread because from the very beginning (Acts 6) Deacons were appointed by the Church to help with distributing food to the community. Saint Stephen was one of the first group of seven deacons in Jerusalem and was stoned to death by the mob who attended his trial for blasphemy. Shown here above the door of his church in Canterbury; see also our post for St Stephen’s day.
We remember especially our friend and contributor, Friar Deacon Chris (top picture): teacher, scholar, writer, friend to refugees. The church would be poorer without the likes of him!
‘They knew him in the breaking of bread.’ I was uneasy about using this photo with its bread knife, when a picture came into my mind.
I was 21 years old, and seated at table with the family who were supposed to be helping my stumbling steps in the French language. The father of the family is standing to my left, the long loaf held against his chest as he cuts thick slices for his family and guests. Such a clear image it is too; no wonder then that only a few hours after his death, these two recognised Jesus in the breaking of bread!
Learning to speak and read French opened doors in my heart and mind for which I am forever grateful; although it took months to be competent and confident. How did it feel to be taught for two or three hours by the greatest of teachers, and then to have their whole beings exposed to the heavenly light of the Resurrection?
Pope Benedict sought to bring renewal to his guests at a Christmas meal.
As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. Butthey urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?”
They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled togetherand saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.”Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
Luke. 24: 28-35
Jesus continued on as if he was going further. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.
During this week of Pilgrimage, we’ve been following the faith journey of the two travellers on the road to Emmaus. And hopefully their story has encouraged us in our own faith, to understand more deeply who Jesus is, and to walk with a renewed sense of his presence in our lives.
Jesus never pushes himself upon us. As he waited for the travellers to ask him to stay, so he waits for us to invite him into our lives. They didn’t know it was the risen Jesus walking with them on the road – but they knew that their hearts had warmed as he spoke to them of the Scriptures and the purposes of God.
And they really wanted to have him with them for longer. They welcomed their new friend. And because of their spirit of hospitality towards him, they were brought into a wonderful fellowship with the risen Lord – so by the time he left them, they not only recognised who he was, but they also knew that he had given their lives a new hope and a new purpose.
If we share that same purpose and hope in Jesus, risen from the dead, we don’t have to keep on asking him to stay with us, because we know that he’s with us all the time. We just have to make sure that we stay with him – especially when times are difficult. He is always faithful. It is we who sometimes aren’t.
May we, like the two travellers on the road to Emmaus, find ourselves more enthused by God’s purposes for us and for the world, and more willing for Jesus to reveal himself to us; willing to welcome him into our lives and homes.
There were two disciples – Cleopas and another – who were shattered by the things that had happened over Thursday and Friday – it didn’t feel like a Good Friday to them. And now on Sunday there were reports from some of the women they went about with, claiming that Jesus had been seen alive. ‘Let’s get away from here and clear our heads!’ You can just imagine them saying such words.
Some think Cleopas is with his wife Mary: we tend to be led by paintings such as Caravaggio’s, to see both the disciples as men, but we are free to see them as a couple. The lessons of the story do not change.
But clearing their heads was not happening. Everything was windmilling round their minds as they talked but there was no resolution to it all.
The whole idea of resurrection can seem as incredible to us as to Cleopas and Mary. It doesn’t happen, no eloquent sacred celebration can disguise that. But if it were true, what then? How would you live the rest of your life? Cleopas and Mary ran back to join their group, the Body of Christ. Who would you take the good news to, and how would you share it?
As the Lord said to the lawyer, ‘Go and do likewise.’
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.
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.