A final reflection on Pentecost from ‘The Life and Letters of Father Andrew’, Anglican Franciscan and parish priest.
This morning I was meditating on our Saviour’s words, ‘It is expedient for you that I go away.’
The Apostles’ faith in our Lord, when they were dependent on his visible presence, did not stand the challenge of the Cross. They all forsook him and fled. But a very few weeks after, those very same men were calmly facing authorities, ‘counting it all joy that they were allowed to suffer for the Name of Jesus.’
When he was with them they failed, when, by the power of the Holy Spirit, he was in them, they overcame.
The Life and Letters of Father Andrew, London, Mowbray, 1948 pp201-202.
The Cross of Triumph at Our Lady and the English Martyrs, Cambridge.
As soon as we heard the news
We went to her,
To sit with her,
But she did not lament,
No tears, her face was set ….
…. her bearing!
Oh that you had seen her!
But the sorrow was deep in her eyes,
In the softness of her voice,
The finality of her hands
To embrace each one.
Then swiftly gathering her shawl
About her head she went …. out,
To meet her Son.
And we were left, bewildered,
We could hear them coming,
You know what these mobs are like.
While she stood
In the middle of the road, alone,
And so he came to his Mother,
Eyes, raised from the ground,
The said he had already fallen twice
And they brought a man to help him.
He could have left them all
To their meeting!
Oh that you had seen them! ….
The soldiers tried …. tried, to move them on.
While they stayed,
She came to us at last.
He walked on,
Dismas is the name by which we know the repentant thief who was crucified with Jesus. He saw Jesus die and spoke to him at the last. There are many references to Jesus eating with sinners, including the call of Matthew. But read Luke 15, 1-7 which leads to the parable of the lost sheep. Saint Luke also tells of Dismas in 23:42.
I know this man. I met him before : you must have heard how he ate and drank with sinners. I was there, of course. I invited him.
That was when I began to forgive myself. He forgave me. He did not turn away. He will not turn away now.
Jesus, remember me, when you come into your Kingdom!
Let us kneel and pray in silence.
And sing : Jesus, remember me, when you come into your Kingdom.
Crucifixion in Winchester Cathedral.
The Maundy Thursday stripping of the church:
a haunting sign of all that has been lost,
what chill descends, what void, what restless search,
to grasp what sin has wrecked, what grace has cost.
My God, no less a personage than he –
our Lord himself, Jesus, Beloved One –
was murdered not by their iniquity:
I am the murderer of God’s own Son.
So I am haunted on this night by sorrow
inside a church that ritual denudes.
I mourn tonight God’s death upon the morrow,
yet still, the meaning flies, full truth eludes.
My mind is darkened still by Satan’s lies.
But three nights hence I know: my God will rise.
[Painting of The Last Supper, by Bouveret, 19th century]
JESUS FALLS AGAIN
A Lawyer who tried to trip Jesus up in his teaching sees him fall on the way to Calvary. The story is told in Luke, 10, 25-37
I know this man, I almost wish I didn’t. I helped to bring him to this, but I never wanted it.
Look at him, covered in mud and bruises, he can hardly see for blood and sweat.
Remember the story he told when I was arguing with him? The traveller battered half to death, no-one to help him but the Samaritan.
Even with that big African helping to carry the cross, Jesus will not survive. No-one can do much for him.
At least that woman has wiped his poor face but still he falls.
And gets up and goes on.
Let us Pray :
Lord, never let us forget that you are there, even among the most desperate people, and those we seem unable to help : at home, at school, at work ; in the street and in the wider world.
Lord in your mercy, hear our Prayer.
JESUS FALLS UNDER THE CROSS
Our witness is a man who was cured by Jesus. He was lame, but now can walk.
You will find his story in Saint Matthew’s Gospel, chapter 9, vv 2-8.
I know this man. Jesus took away my sins. He said they were forgiven.
Then he told me to get up, pick up my bed, and walk home.
Now he is down, under the weight of the cross, too heavy to pick up, too far from home. Crushed by the weight of our sins.
Lord, many people are far from home, or crushed by sorrow or sin.
Help us to care for them, to make them welcome, to show them your love.
Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.
JESUS TAKES UP HIS CROSS
Luke tells us the young man was one of the aristocracy. He would have been well known to Herod and the High Priestly Families, and able to gain entry anywhere in Jerusalem, including the Roman fort. Luke tells the story in Chapter 18, 18-23
I know this man; He is a good man, a good man.
He seemed to have something, to know something, something I could never quite get hold of. Something I could not understand.
I kept the law as well as anyone — God knows I tried to live by the rules. I should have been happy, knowing I was doing what God wanted but happiness was always just out of reach.
The Kingdom of God, Jesus said, is among you; it is close at hand, it belongs to the children. If you want to get there welcome the Kingdom like a child. Sell everything, give the money to the poor and follow me.
Follow him? Now?
Let us pray :
Lord, show us what we need to throw away to be able to take up our cross and follow you — now. Show us that you are at hand when life is difficult. Lord in your mercy.
Brocagh School, Glenfarne, Leitrim, c1969.
We invite you to walk the Via Crucis – the Way of the Cross – with us during these final days of Lent.
There are one or two differences between these Stations and the traditional order seen in most Catholic Churches. These have been made to bring the Stations closer to the events as told in the Gospels, and to finish the Way of the Cross at its true destination – the new life for which it is a signpost.
Each station is described by someone from the Gospels who would have gone up to Jerusalem for the Passover. Every one of their lives was changed by Jesus; now they are witnesses to his passion and death. Witnesses, not merely observers: as they tell us, each one knows this man Jesus.
The meditations refer back to their encounters with Jesus. We see them learning what sort of person he was. Opening the Gospels at these passages in the light of the Passion story, may we open our hearts to let the Spirit work in us. The Scriptural reference is given for each meditation.
The question, ‘Why did he have to die?’ is not an easy one to answer. These stations show how the lack of understanding, the falling short of total commitment of so many of his contemporaries — even those close to him — were part of the climate that allowed the crucifixion to happen.
You are invited to pray in solidarity with these bewildered bystanders, who, for all their failings, were good people; each of them loved, or wanted to love Jesus. At the end, none could halt his Way of the Cross. And each of them suffered a personal, private, crucifixion.
We need Jesus’ help to accept our own sufferings as the cross to be taken up daily, to follow him. We know at one level that we must suffer, but perhaps find it a long lesson to deal with it when it comes.
I have told you this now before it happens, so that when it does happen you may believe. John 14:29.
Jesus tells us his truth – then it has to become alive in us by working itself out within each of us in our crucifixion and resurrection. Thomas Merton.
(These Stations were presented at Saint Thomas’ Church Canterbury.)
The Eildon Hills and the countryside where Duns Scotus was born.
Janet and I were discussing matters theological over dinner. What is communal living, like L’Arche, about? I recalled the suffering manifest in some core members from the early days of the community, people who had left incarceration in hospitals and had to learn that they could live a life where they were valued.
From their suffering we moved to talk of the Crucifixion, where Christians have some explaining to do. It’s not difficult to imagine people concluding that a God who demanded the sacrifice of animals, let alone human beings is a cruel god, not a loving shepherd. Janet shared how the Franciscan Richard Rohr takes sacrifice, building on the work of his confrere, John Duns Scotus, in this reflection from his website: Atonement not atonement .
Well worth reading during Lent. Jesus came to change the mind of humanity about God, as Friar Richard says, not the other way about.
Mary Mother from Hales Place Jesuit Chapel, Canterbury
Our last reading from Father Andrew this Christmastime.
Adoro Te Devote Latens Deitas
Who could refuse the appeal
Of Baby hands stretched out caressingly,
Or patter of Baby feet upon the stair?
It was like Love to deal
So with us in His sweet humility,
To be a little Child amongst us here;
And at the last, when those same hands had borne
The scars of labour and the pierce of sin,
Faithful at eventide as in the morn
Of His first Coming, still to seek to win,
With bleeding hands held wide in mute appeal,
The acceptance of His own unchanging love.