Tag Archives: Creator God

25 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, VIII.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023

Photo: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

As we join with other Christians around the world for the Week of Prayer we pray that our hearts will be open to see and hear the many ways in which racism continues to destroy lives, and to discern the steps we can take as individuals and communities to heal the hurts and build a better future for everyone.

Day 8 Restoring hope through the work of justice

Isaiah 40:1-11
Luke 1:46-55

Commentary

In facing up to the harm caused by racial injustice, we hold before us the promise of God’s love and the healing of relationships. The Prophet Isaiah speaks of God gathering and comforting all people who have been lost and have experienced suffering. In the Magnificat, Mary reminds us that God never abandons us and that God’s promise to us is fulfilled in justice.

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the murder of Stephen Lawrence. Stephen was a young man growing up in south-east London with big dreams for his future. His life was tragically cut short when, on 22 April 1993, he was murdered in an unprovoked racist attack. The pain of his family and the wider community was compounded by serious failings in the investigation of this crime, which were later exposed in the Macpherson Report. In his memory a foundation has been established to support and inspire young people to have a bright future. Stephen’s mother, (Baroness) Doreen Lawrence, says of this work:

“Justice for Stephen is about all of us, every one of us, in society having justice. There are still too many young people who do not have a sense of hope, who just don’t get the chance to live their dreams. I want all our children and young people to feel inspired, be confident and have hope in their own future. We are building hope, but there is more to do.”

It is easy to feel hopeless as we are time and again reminded that we live in a fractured society that does not fully recognise, honour, and protect the human dignity and freedom of all human beings. An alignment of love of God, love of all our human family and love of justice are deeply needed for hope and healing. God calls us to continually live into hope, trusting that God will be with us in the midst of our individual and communal liminal space – on the threshold of what has been and what is, while yearning for what is yet to be.

Reflection

Fr Bryan Massingale, one of the world’s leading Catholic social ethicists and scholars in racial justice, reminds us of his hope and challenge:
“Social life is made by human beings.
The society we live in is the result of human choices and decisions.
This means that human beings can change things.
What humans break, divide and separate,
we can with God’s help,also heal, unite and restore.
What is now does not have to be.
Therein lies the hope and the challenge.”

Prayer

Creator God, please teach us to go inward 
to be grounded in your loving spirit
so we can go outward in wisdom and courage
to always choose the path of love and justice.

Questions

Many of the global protests that took place after George Floyd’s killing were led by young people, some of whom were connected to the Church. How can we use their ardour for racial justice to bring about change in the Church?

What substantive actions should have taken place after Stephen Lawrence’s killing? Why do you think they did not occur?

How did you respond to the killings of Stephen Lawrence and/or George Floyd? How have these tragedies encouraged you to take a greater interest in racial justice?

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24 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, VII.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023

Photo: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

As we join with other Christians around the world for the Week of Prayer we pray that our hearts will be open to see and hear the many ways in which racism continues to destroy lives, and to discern the steps we can take as individuals and communities to heal the hurts and build a better future for everyone.

Day 7 Agency

Matthew 5:1–8 
Job 5:1-16

Commentary

Matthew’s account of the Beatitudes begins with Jesus seeing the crowds. In that crowd he must have seen those who were peacemakers, the poor in spirit, the pure in heart, men and women who mourned, and those who hungered for justice. In the Beatitudes Jesus not only names people’s struggles, he names what they will be: the children of God and inheritors of the Kingdom of Heaven.

Howard Thurman, African American theologian and spiritual advisor to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., believed, “the religion that Jesus lived produced the kind of life for Him that identifies with the downtrodden, outcast, broken, and disinherited of the world.” Yet, Thurman also believed that, “It cannot be denied that too often the weight of the Christian movement has been on the side of the strong and the powerful and against the weak and oppressed – this, despite the gospel.”

If we listen hard enough, we will hear a diversity of voices crying out under the weight of oppression. Action is needed today to bring love, hope, justice and liberation for us and others in the future. Oppression of any kind demands that each of us chooses to engage in order to eradicate the injustice(s) that break our hearts open.

In prayer we align our hearts with the heart of God, to love what God loves and to love as God loves. Prayer with integrity therefore aligns and unites us – beyond our divisions – to love what, whom and how God loves, and to express this love in our actions.

Let us all work together with God in our hope and commitment to shut injustice’s mouth and eradicate oppression in all areas of our society.

Reflection

I see you there,
You – blessed ones,
You – poor in spirit,
You – mourners, meek ones and merciful ones.
I hear your stomachs rumble with hunger. 
Is righteousness enough to satisfy your thirst,
like rain upon the earth?
You have had your fill of the schemes of crafty ones,
been force fed so-called wisdom by the wily.
With pure and undivided hearts
you train your eyes upon God’s cause – 
to lift high the perceived lowly,
to bring to safety any who are in danger of being trampled by pride-filled footsteps of trespassers,
or stabbed by weaponised words hell-bent on cutting down and dehumanising.
Shut the mouth of injustice, God,
tear down the strongholds of the power-hungry
and give us the desire and the strength
to rebuild a realm
where all who are wounded are brought comfort,
where the inheritance is shared by all,
where swords and shields are beaten
into tools for sowing peace and reconciliation,
where healing abounds
and mouths open to sing stories of shared blessing and hope.

Prayer

God of justice,
Empower us to be agents of your grace and mercy.
Bless us with the courage to relinquish our power.
Bless us with the humility to stand with the oppressed.
Bless us with the integrity to love our neighbours 
as we ourselves would seek to be loved.

Questions

Can you think of a time when you felt powerless? How would you have liked others to respond?

Think about the ways you might have influence in your local community? How might you use that influence to help those who feel powerless?

Around the world whole communities find themselves powerless as a result of corruption and exploitation. How might the choices we make in our daily lives impact these situations?

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23 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, VI.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023

Photo: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

As we join with other Christians around the world for the Week of Prayer we pray that our hearts will be open to see and hear the many ways in which racism continues to destroy lives, and to discern the steps we can take as individuals and communities to heal the hurts and build a better future for everyone.

Day 6 Walking humbly in the way

Micah 6:6-8
Philippians 2:5-11

Commentary

Scripture reminds us that we cannot separate our love for God from our love for others. We love God when we feed the hungry, give the thirsty something to drink, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, care for the sick and visit the prisoner. When we care for and serve “one of the least of these,” we are caring for and serving Christ himself.

But we are called to go beyond giving or serving from a position of power, where we maintain our status above the person to whom we are ministering. How are we to emulate Jesus who, though he was Lord of all, became truly the servant of all? What is power, and how are we to use it and to share it in the work of God?

God calls us to honour the sacredness and dignity of each member of God’s family. Caring for, serving and loving others reveals not who they are, but who we are. As Christians, we must be unified in our responsibility to love and care for others, as we are cared for and loved by God. In so doing, we live out our shared faith through our actions in service to the world and we find our true calling as servants of the Servant King.

Reflection

Yours are the power and the glory. 
Yet we see your greatest greatness when you stoop to serve. 
Creator, give us the power to be powerless 
and bestow on us the dignity
of the servant rich in love.

Prayer

Lord of the power and the glory, 
you became for us the servant of all. 
Show us the power and the glory of servanthood
and enable us to minister to your world
according to its needs and our abilities.

Questions

Where in your personal life could you bring blessing by yielding power?

How could the churches in your community share power to become more effective in service?

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21 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, IV.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023

Photo: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

As we join with other Christians around the world for the Week of Prayer we pray that our hearts will be open to see and hear the many ways in which racism continues to destroy lives, and to discern the steps we can take as individuals and communities to heal the hurts and build a better future for everyone.

Day 4 Lament

Psalm 22:1-5 
Matthew 27:45-50

Commentary

Lament requires us to really look and see. A young woman looked and saw the tears of the oppressed. The video she shot on her phone of the murder of George Floyd in May 2020 was seen all around the world and unleashed a holy rage as people witnessed, and finally acknowledged, what African Americans have experienced for centuries: subjugation by oppressive systems in the midst of privileged blind bystanders.In the UK, black men between 18 and 25 years are five times more likely to be stopped and searched by the police and black women are four times more likely to die during childbirth. We have much to lament.

The two passages today speak of lament. Jesus, and David, the brutally honest psalmist, set this example for us of what to do when we’re in pain.

“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” is a pain-filled cry at the very beginning of Psalm 22 that is mirrored by Jesus himself on the cross in Matthew 27.

The pain is not sanitised and polished for us. It is raw and honest.

Lament is a hard practice to embrace. Our society wants us to rush towards positivity and victory. What does it mean to truly lament? To sit with the pain. Lament demands that we open ourselves, it demands from all of us, that we no longer ignore the pain.

Reflection

“Lament is a protest so deep that it must become a prayer, for only God can provide needed hope that justice will prevail and that the future will be different.”

Rachel’s Cry: Prayer of Lament and Rebirth of Hope, Kathleen D Bilman and Daniel L Migliore, The Pilgrim Press 1999

Prayer

God of justice and of grace, 
remove the scales from my eyes 
so I can truly see the oppression around me, 
and give me courage not only to name it, but to fight it 
while providing authentic presence, witness, and compassion to the oppressed.

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20 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, III.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023

Photo: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

As we join with other Christians around the world for the Week of Prayer we pray that our hearts will be open to see and hear the many ways in which racism continues to destroy lives, and to discern the steps we can take as individuals and communities to heal the hurts and build a better future for everyone.

Day 3 Difference

Luke 5:27-29 
Amos 5

Commentary

The identity of the Minnesota Working Group is immersed in the rich and haunting harmonies that tell the history of many peoples. “Our bodies can be in tune with the ancestral, while acknowledging all of the pain, joy, brilliance, fatigue, connection and more wrapped up in one. We centre ourselves in the stories of the place we call home. We are men, women, mothers, fathers, storytellers and healers.”

We can recognise the diversity within our communities if we take time to look. Even within our gatherings there is a beautiful tapestry of worship experience and spiritual expression, woven together from the indigenous population, from those who have immigrated, or those who are displaced and who now call this place home.

We are blessed and we are to bless others. We are loved and we are to love others. We are to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God, together. We. Not Me. Our kinship and God’s teachings guide us into community together as we learn and act as We. Not Me. So our gatherings, prayers, hymns, art and culture should reflect this, and be infused with the beauty of difference, all the while reaching toward the unity of God’s divine justice.

A tapestry is a beautiful work of art, but if you look at the back, you see the messy edges, and frayed ends, the knots and snags – how do we celebrate the beauty of the tapestry while acknowledging the work that is necessary to maintain the beauty, not as a façade, but as a result of recognising and celebrating difference?

Reflection

What is this noise? 
These meaningless festivals of falsehood, 
litanies of lip service and diatribes of doxologies, 
that seek to drown out the reality of poisonous polity, 
that hope to mask the clanging cymbals of fear and frailty. 
We do not seem to understand that disharmony is our downfall.

But in the midst of our din, 
God calls forth from each corner of this earth, 
songs of justice that roll down like waters 
– interwoven melody and haunting harmony 
deep enough to hold our dissonance 
and the unresolved tension of our journeys to this place.

Prayer

Gracious and loving God, 
expand our vision that it may be wide enough to recognise the beautiful complexity
 of the tapestry you chose to weave with each and every one of us. 
Gather our frayed edges, our loose ends 
and bind us together for your glory.

Questions

How often do we think and act as ‘We. Not me’?

How much of the necessary work are we doing to make a beautiful tapestry in our communities?

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19 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, II.

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2023

Photo: Mazur/cbcew.org.uk

As we join with other Christians around the world for the Week of Prayer we pray that our hearts will be open to see and hear the many ways in which racism continues to destroy lives, and to discern the steps we can take as individuals and communities to heal the hurts and build a better future for everyone.

Day 2 That they may be one

Isaiah 1:12-18
John 17:13-26

Commentary

Jesus prays that we will be “completely one”, praying for an authentic and selfless unity, one with no half measures, reflected in the person of God, in the unity of the Trinity. Such unity is challenging, it requires self-reflection, humility, a release of power and control, and an openness to change. Is this the unity that you are praying for this week?

Isaiah reminds us of the hypocrisy that can still exist in our churches, claiming a love for others, but really only extending a full welcome to those who are like us. Many have experienced pain, rejection, abuse, and exclusion within the Church. A Christian expression of unity must include everyone and offer healing and justice. This is rarely done in isolation, but more often together.

Instead of offering empty worship Isaiah calls us to “learn to do good; seek justice” (Isaiah 1:17). Learning to do good also requires an openness to change. This is the perfect season for Christians to reflect not just on unity but on the role we can all play together in promoting racial justice in a world all too often unmoved by suffering.

And yet, there is joy in affirming that “Black Lives Matter” in the pursuit of justice for God’s oppressed, dominated, and exploited beloved. There is power in giving in to wisdom’s call for justice, and in doing it as a church together.

Reflection

Trample my courts no more, says the Lord, 
cease your offerings to me. 
I cannot endure your worship, 
it is too heavy to bear.
Put down your burden, 
release the load of others. 
Rescue, defend, and plead as one,
in my name, seek justice together.

Prayer

God of Unity, 
forgive us when we are self-serving
and help us to grow in unity and understanding
as we extend your love and justice to all.

Questions

Where can you speak out together with other Christians against racial injustice?

Where do you need God’s help in recognising, understanding and overcoming your own prejudice?

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11 January: Reflections on a charity bike ride.

These bikes were in Bruges, Belgium during a car-free Sunday.

Mark Piper rode 100km from Chicago to Michigan City, Indiana in aid of children with brain tumours; the event remembers a small boy of the Chicago parish who died with this disease, Patrick McNamara. The full story is here, together with Piper’s reflections, on the National Catholic Reporter website. Since the pastor who was the race starter dedicated the race to Mary and the finishing line was at one of her churches, it seems an appropriate item for her feast today. She, if anyone, exhibited holiness in the world!

The pastor of the parish reminded us that our coming together, through the prayers and material assistance raised for these families, was community at its best. And he ended his blessing by inviting us all to recite the Hail Mary.

While sitting down at the post-ride party my mind … reflected on my first, but certainly not last, Pat Mac’s 100K ride. Although not draped in piety or devotions, or having any sacraments administered, this ride, by bringing us together and building community, exhibited a holiness in the world that perhaps enlivened Gospel service.

During my six hours on the bike, and a few more under a tent filled with food, stories and friendship, I certainly experienced church, being church and being church for others. May Our Lady, in Italy, Spain, France or Michigan City, Indiana, watch over us, keep us safe and hasten the day when paediatric cancer research brings forth a cure. Until this hopeful prayer is granted, I look forward to this bicycle ride and seeing that mosaic of Mary, at prayer herself, at the finish line.

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9 January: Praying with Pope Francis: Educators.

Brocagh School, Leitrim, 1969

This January Pope Francis asks us to pray for Educators

We pray that educators may be credible witnesses, 
teaching fraternity rather than competition  
and helping the youngest and most vulnerable above all. 

I shared this picture on the Pelicans Website in 2011. It shows the children of Brocagh School, Co. Leitrim in 1969, with their educators, head teacher Mrs McCormack, to the right, and her assistant teacher, then, I think, called Miss Byrne, but wearing an engagement ring.

Sometime after this, in 1970-72 the little local 2 classroom schools were all closed down and a new central school built in Glenfarne village. We students at nearby Saint Augustine's College visited the little schools to deliver an RE lesson each Wednesday morning.

It was Mrs McCormack who gave me a valuable lesson, in the qualities Pope Francis proclaims. This was thanks to Joe McHugh, down there in the front row wearing a green jacket. During the time after Easter we had John's story of the barbecue by the lake after the miraculous catch of fish, and Peter's final declaration of faith. 

I think the lesson went well. The children drew some remarkable pictures, but Mrs McCormack drew my attention to Joe's in particular: come here now, Joe, what's this in the corner? - It's Saint Peter's lorry, Miss, come to carry away the fish. I'd missed the lorry completely; I'd not interpreted the shapes he'd drawn in 20th Century terms.

What Mrs McCormack knew, but I did not, was that Joe's family had recently acquired a lorry which was Joe's pride and joy, so of course St Peter would have had his lorry ready to take the fish to market. The story made sense to Joe, and had always made more sense to me as a consequence; thank you Joe, wherever you are. And thank you to Mrs McCormack, that credible witness!You used Joe's lorry to teach him and me that fraternity between the generations means allowing the child to teach himself, and his (or her) teachers.

Olivia O'Dolan and other local people managed to identify many of the children whose names appear on the Pelicans Website.

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6 January, Epiphany: Recognising God’s presence.

The Cross as shining star; do we recognise Jesus in our suffering? Saint Edmundsbury Cathedral.

Here is an extract from an Epiphany sermon by Rev Bruce Bryant-Scott. He makes no direct mention of the Wise Men here, but they travelled West to Jerusalem and on to Bethlehem because they recognised the new-born King of the Jews. May we, too, recognise him at work in our hearts.

Epiphany means showing forth… Think of the unveiling of a plaque or a statue – that is an apocalypse, a revelation. Blessing is like that. We bless food, houses, people, and sneezes, but we also bless God – the psalmist sings, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless God’s holy name”. So blessing is not about adding something to a situation. It is about recognising God’s action in a situation.

The Eucharist, this great Thanksgiving in which we take bread and wine and bless it, is an epiphany and a revelation of God working here among us. It is not magic, it is not hocus pocus, but recognising the spiritual reality of God’s presence. When I bless a marriage, I am not adding something to the relationship, but simply recognising on behalf of the church that God is acting in the couple.

There is this thing called prevenient grace, a major point in both ancient Catholic theology and the more recent Methodism of John and Charles Wesley. It is the belief that God is acting in us and for us before we are aware of it. Prevenient or preceding grace prepares in our hearts a place for God – it’s what makes that God shaped hole in our souls that only God can fill, that desire that only the divine can satisfy.

My hope and my prayer is that we become aware of how the God in Christ is working in us by the Holy Spirit, that we do not pack it all away now that Christmas is over, but see it. May we join with the psalmist and say,

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,
who alone does wondrous things.
Blessed be his glorious name for ever;
may his glory fill the whole earth.

Amen and Amen.

Bruce Bryant-Scott is an Anglican priest working on the Island of Crete. His blog is theislandparson.com and this post comes from there.

Here is the inscription on the High Altar Cross of St Edmundsbury Cathedral; not the one shown here:

”And life is eternal and love is immortal and death is only the horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.”

The High Altar Cross is both beautiful and poignant. It was given by the parents of Pauline Greene who died in 1921 aged 3 years old. We can offer to God our deepest pain and loss. The cross of Jesus shows how God transforms suffering into new life.

http://www.stedscathedral.org.

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5 January: You will not be alone when you arrive

Here are two paragraphs from Bishop Nicholas Hudson’s homily at a Mass for Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. The full text can be found at Independent Catholic News.

‘Now, as he prepares to come before the Lord, I trust he will have been encouraged and strengthened by his own conviction, some years ago, when speaking in 1978 to priests who were celebrating their Golden Jubilee of Ordination. Because he sought to reassure them: “When, some day,” he told them, “you knock at the door of heaven, you need not be afraid.” For, “as pastors you will have accompanied (diverse) people… in their hours of joy and their hours of grief and suffering. You (will) have helped people to live and to die. So you have many friends (both) on this side of the threshold and beyond it. (And so) you will not be alone when you arrive.”‘1

‘I trust he also derived consolation from his own contemplation of St John Henry Newman’s Dream of Gerontius to which he made enthusiastic reference at the climax of his Beatification homily. It is deeply moving to think Pope Benedict now knows what it is like to realise that it is indeed really happening for him what Cardinal Newman imagines in his Dream of Gerontius will be for each of us – at the moment of death to be borne upwards by your guardian angel, to see God and, in instant, to know your sin and the need to atone for it; and so be borne away to purgatory, there to prepare your soul until your angel comes to take you back again – with the promise, the sweet promise, that meanwhile Masses on earth and prayers in heaven will help you – as we pray this Mass, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, will indeed help and console and encourage this our dear departed brother Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI this night.’

1 Joseph Ratzinger, Benedict XVI, Teaching and Learning the Love of God, San Francisco 2017, 348-9

Let us add our prayers to all Pope Benedict’s friends on this side of the threshold as well as beyond; may he rest in peace and rise in glory.

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