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“Do not be afraid…Go and tell…”
These are usually God’s instructions to the prophets. Jesus is giving the women a mission as the first prophets of the Resurrection. These women looked after him in Galilee and followed him to Judea to continue caring for him. They were the ones who stayed closest to Jesus in His darkest hour and even prepared him for burial. Now, by God’s design, they are the first to see Jesus after his Resurrection.
In the Garden of Eden, the serpent taught the woman a lesson that she passed on to the man – to trust her own will more than her Creator. That message caused both man and woman to separate themselves from God. So, from Genesis onward, generations of people blamed woman for the Fall of humanity. She was treated as inferior to man, who dominated her.
In the garden of the Resurrection, God entrusts to women a message for men that will save all humans and reunite us with our Creator: Jesus has undone death and is coming to be with you again.
Later, Jesus will have to reproach the apostles for refusing to believe his chosen messengers.
I pray that I, like those women, may remain faithful to Jesus, trusting in his will and eager to carry it out.
Image from http://www.swordofthespirit.net/bulwark/april2013p3.htm
Easter Sunday Morning Year A
John 20: 1-9
‘…linen cloths on the ground.’
When a person has conquered the fear of death, there is nothing left to fear in life. He/she has complete freedom of soul and peace of mind. Fear and death both come into the world in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve, feeling shame for the first time, cover their bodies and hide from the Lord.
In the garden of the Resurrection, Jesus, having conquered death and fear, leaves his covering behind in the tomb and comes out into the open, fearless and naked as a new-born human.
St. Francis intuits what it means to be freed from fear by Christ’s Resurrection. When he comes out of hiding from his earthly father and openly claims his Father in heaven, he also sheds all his clothes, facing his new life with the fearless innocence Christ has won for him. Now that he can even look on death as a sister and a blessing, he no longer finds any enemies in God’s creation – only sisters and brothers.
Father, may we, in union with Christ, be unbound from all our fears and claim our true created nature in the power of his Resurrection. Amen.
Holy Name Church, Manchester
Water is everywhere at the Easter Vigil, from Creation (Genesis 1) to the Exodus (Chapter 14) and the rain making the land fertile in Isaiah (35:1-11) to Paul’s ‘When we were baptised in Christ Jesus we were baptised in his death … so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the Father’s glory, we too might live a new life. (Romans 6:3-11)
The water is blessed by immersing the Paschal Candle in it, as we pray that all who are buried with Christ in the death of baptism may rise to new life with him. New Christians are baptised; we are all sprinkled with holy water.
The Church is serious about death, the church is serious about the Resurrection. As you enter the Holy Name church in Manchester you cannot avoid their magnificent holy water fonts: this particular church is very serious about the death of baptism.
If we are to be raised from the dead, then despite all our trials and troubles, everything is basically all right. All will be well, all manner of things will be well. If you cannot quite believe in Easter and everlasting life, ask yourself, if this story were indeed true, what difference would it make to me today? How would it change my life? Then try starting that change in behaviour, and see if it makes sense.
John Masefield wrote a play in verse about Good Friday. In an exchange after Jesus was condemned, we hear Pilate and and his wife Procula, who famously warned him ‘Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him.‘ (Matthew 27:19)
Another charge was brought some hours ago,
That he was claiming to be that great King
foretold by prophets, who shall free the Jews.
This he persisted in. I could not choose
But end a zealot claiming such a thing.
It is a desecration of our power.
A rude poor man who pitted his pure sense
Against what holds the world its little hour,
Blind force and fraud, priests’ mummery and pretence.
Could you not see that this is what he did?
Most clearly, wife. But Roman laws forbid
That I should weigh, like God, the worth of souls.
I act for Rome, and Rome is better rid
Of those rare spirits whom no law controls.
He broke a statute, knowing from the first
Whither his act would lead, he was not blind.
‘Good Friday’ in John Masefield, ‘Collected Poems’, London, Heinemann, 1925, pp449-507.
Procula’s speech is as good an examination of conscience as any for today, but if you can find the text, the whole play is worth reading and pondering.
Tissot: The Message of Pilate’s Wife, Brooklyn Museum
The Cherry Trees
The cherry trees bend over and are shedding,
On the old road where all that passed are dead,
Their petals, strewing the grass as for a wedding,
This early May morn when there is none to wed.
The photograph shows an orchard of new cherry trees at Amery Court, Canterbury. They will spend their spring-times protected from ravages of wind, rain, and birds and squirrels by nets rolled out on frames overhead. Few petals will reach the old road, now part of Cycle Route 1 from Dover to Scotland. But the farmer trusts that the expense of planting these trees will be repaid with many a harvest.
Edward Thomas and so many like him trusted that they were putting their lives on the line to help save England and bring about the end of War…
Also tomorrow we remember the Prince of Peace coming into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, not a tank or armoured car. And it is still not too late to pray and strive for Peace, starting by sowing a seed of love and peace in our own hearts.
And may Edward Thomas and all who fell in War, through the mercy of God, rest in Peace. Amen.
Cross from a cave in the Tatra Mountains; many of this week’s pictures come from Poland. This one tells me that we are on pilgrimage, leading us through some dark places: “One step enough for me”.
One of Agnellus’ friends, who writes as Beauty Beyond Bones, was moved on Boxing Day to ask, Is Christianity Dead?
As editor of Agnellusmirror I felt moved to reply, and firstly sought a response from Doug. He’s given a straightforward Scriptural reflection which is out today. Then, as our friend makes some observations on young people, I was well into addressing those when I was sent this link to the English version of the introduction to the Church’s next Synod on Young People . Pope Francis and the Bishops are inviting responses again, so read, share and respond!
I will be looking at the document during my discussion with BBB during the week.
We are told (Luke 1.29) that, at the Annunciation, Mary ‘was troubled at his (the angel’s) saying, and thought with herself what manner of salutation this should be.’ The troubles did not end there, as Simeon foretold: (Luke 2:35) ‘And thy own soul a sword shall pierce.’
I would like to take a sideways look at this story with a passage from Father Andrew SDC, writing to a woman recently bereaved in World War II.
‘If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable,’ (1 Corinthians 15:19) because, indeed, as S. Paul knew so well from his own experiences, our Christian hope brings us all sorts of pains which we only have because of it; I mean the pain that comes from the failure to live up to it, and the pain of sacrifices made because of it, and also as it deepens and enriches our relationships and makes our friendships much more deep and sacred, so our partings are made more poignant as each beloved one is taken from us. But it is not in this life only that we have hope in Christ, and so we can smile through our tears and be sure that our dear ones are with Christ, and nearer to him are not farther from us.
Life and Letters of Fr Andrew, p 162.
How much pain Mary took on trust when she agreed to the angel’s request!
I noticed recently that there are more than a hundred people following this blog, and we know there are others who dip in and out.
Time to say another ‘thank you’ to all our readers and supporters! A ‘like’ or a comment can only be encouraging to our contributors and to me as editor.
Please drop us the occasional line to let us know what you enjoy or what challenges you’d like us to take up. Coming soon is a set of posts responding to one of our readers who posted recently on her own blog about the possible imminent death of the Catholic Church. Not yet, BBB, not yet!
Have a good end to Lent, and if you are a mother, happy Mother’s Day on Sunday!
Karin arranged these flowers for us when we visited her and Winfried over the summer. Thank you again for your welcome!
God Bless us, every one!
Altrincham Market Cross
Early Franciscans, such as Blessed Agnellus of Pisa, our patron, often preached in the open air, maybe at a cross erected as a town’s Speakers’ Corner, like this one, reconstructed in Altrincham, Cheshire. The Reformation saw most of them demolished in England.
When we travelled to the North of England recently there were the usual old trailers, parked in fields beside the motorways and advertising anything from the local builder to sofas or insurance on-line. There was a cluster in West Yorkshire that reminded me of the ‘Wayside Pulpits’ that non-conformist churches display, with their elegant calligraphy proclaiming a Bible verse or seasonal message. ‘Prepare to meet thy God’ read one of these trailers, with a lot more text besides, too much to take in with a passing glance.
One of the firms that arrange these ads boasts that they offer 7-10 seconds of dwell time guaranteed. That’s 7-10 seconds of a driver not fully aware of the road – guaranteed.
The weather was worsening; just a few miles up the road we witnessed a collision.
I don’t suppose the church or individual who had these billboards parked there intended readers to be meeting their God so soon after reading their message, but this is irresponsible and dangerous preaching. It is also illegal. Time to stop it!
Do you remember Sister Johanna writing about praying the Psalms, and how the difficult prayers that we do not agree with have a place in our own prayer life? ‘This is not pretty’, we might say, ‘but I need to tell it to someone.’ Here David wants to guard his mouth, but what comes out is the sort of confusion that springs from deep hurt as we have been touching on these last days. But ‘surely in vain is any man disquieted.’ Easier said than felt or acted upon. But saying it is a start.
Psalm 38 (39) A canticle of David.
I said: I will take heed to my ways: that I sin not with my tongue. I have set guard to my mouth, when the sinner stood against me.
I was dumb, and was humbled, and kept silence from good things: and my sorrow was renewed.
My heart grew hot within me: and in my meditation a fire shall flame out.
I spoke with my tongue: O Lord, make me know my end. And what is the number of my days: that I may know what is wanting to me.
Behold thou hast made my days measurable: and my substance is as nothing before thee. And indeed all things are vanity: every man living.
Surely man passeth as an image: yea, and he is disquieted in vain. He storeth up: and he knoweth not for whom he shall gather these things.
And now what is my hope? is it not the Lord? and my substance is with thee.
Deliver thou me from all my iniquities: thou hast made me a reproach to the fool.
I was dumb, and I opened not my mouth, because thou hast done it.
Remove thy scourges from me. The strength of thy hand hath made me faint in rebukes:
Thou hast corrected man for iniquity. And thou hast made his soul to waste away like a spider: surely in vain is any man disquieted.
Hear my prayer, O Lord, and my supplication: give ear to my tears. Be not silent: for I am a stranger with thee, and a sojourner as all my fathers were.
O forgive me, that I may be refreshed, before I go hence, and be no more.