Tag Archives: fear

February 16: the New Creation

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The way we overcome fears is not by coldly reasoning out an alternative. It is by accepting the gift of Christ’s new heaven and new earth, given to us as love. Mary received that gift on our behalf, a vision of new stars and a new sun, the sun of righteousness and integrity. Joy is an aspect of wonder in the Christian outlook of hope, because we look forward to transforming love as a community of joy. We cherish this authentic vision of love in all the layers of our personality.

As Karl Rahner expresses it:

“An authentic vision can probably be explained as a purely spiritual touch of God, affecting the innermost centre of a man, and spreading from there to all of his faculties, his thought and imagination, which transform this touch. Hence, when a ‘vision’ reaches the consciousness of a visionary, it has already passed through the medium of his subjectivity, and therefore also bears his individual characteristics as regards language, interests, theological presuppositions and so forth.”

Does this make our distinct cultures into barriers? Not so.

“The grace of which the Church is the enduring sign is victoriously offered by God even to those who have not yet found the visible Church and who nevertheless already, without realizing it, live by its Spirit, the Holy Spirit in the love and mercy of God.” “Some who would never dream of telling themselves… that they have already received ‘the baptism of the Spirit’ of the radical freedom of love… nevertheless live in a community secretly liberated by God’s grace in the deepest core of their existence.”

ChrisD.

January 2017.

 

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15 February: Officers and Civilians

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During the same Freshers’ Week Fair, and only a few paces away from the Paintball Monster, a slightly (but not very) different kind of recruitment was going on. Promising safe, lucrative careers to those newcomers from secondary schools, a British Army Officers’ Training Corps Tenet had a team ready to win over students to lives of military domination. Officers are paid to be good at domination. Students who have brains sharpened by A level mental discipline are just sufficiently self-assured about their talent for drilling others and keeping the world in line. Some might feel relieved to have difficult decisions about a fruitful direction to pursue in life to be taken for them by the military.

Psychotherapist Viktor Frankl observes that “boredom exists so that we will do justice to the meaning of our life.” From a utilitarian point of view, grief and repentance “appear to be meaningless” but when told to take a sleeping pill, “the grief-stricken person commonly retorts that his sleeping better will not awaken the lost one whom he mourns.” Through love “the gates to the whole universe of values are thrown open.” Dan Berrigan says that “one of the largest tasks of all… [is] helping other people to live by other  means than their fear, whether it  is fear of one another, fear of the enemy, fear  of the authorities, fear of prison, fear of disgrace, or fear of separation from their families.” Such inflation of reality is what “government [is] able to play on” till people can’t recognise fear of what might happen as different from what is actually happening.

 

Chris D.

January 2017.

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10 February: The Lord hears and answers

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Today is Friday in the Fifth week in Ordinary time. It is also the memorial of Saint Scholastica, Virgin.
In the Gospel of today, Saint Mark 7: 31- 37, Christ healed a man with an impediment in his speech. He also had ear problems. Jesus took him aside in private, then He looked up to heaven and sighed. What does this sigh mean to you? He turned to God with a heavy heart. He made a request from God the Father Who looked into His heart and answered Him – the man’s ears opened and he began to speak clearly.
Saint Scholastica, who was consecrated to God as a virgin, went to visit her brother Saint Benedict, as she usually did once a year.  She went on this very day and as her brother wanted to leave her, she asked him to stay but he refused. Scholastica turned to God in silence and with a heavy heart, and God answered her with a very heavy rain, so that her brother could not leave her again that night.
How often do you turn to God for your problems with a heavy heart? Christ turned to God the Father with a sigh for someone who was sick to be healed and God the Father answered him. Saint Scholastica turned to God and God answered her. What is it that you are struggling with today; is it sickness, lack of a job, no promotion, failure, lack of faith, lack of identity? Please do turn to God today just the way that you are feeling right now and He will answer you. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. God never changes.

FMSL

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6 December: Christ knows Mercy is not always easy.

Mercy is not always an easy virtue to live out. Masefield recognises this in The Coming of Christ. He portrays a foretelling of Jesus’s Agony in the Garden (Luke 22:43) when ‘there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony, he prayed the longer.’

Masefield’s words could apply to Christ’s thoughts in Gethsemane as well as to his reason for coming to earth in the first place:

I stand here at the gate

I quake as I enter in;

Life with its griefs and sin,

Earth with its death and Fate,

Man with his love and hate. (p6)

The Gate of Life, the Gate of Death: two fearsome Gates of Mercy through which Christ entered this world and the next.

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November 28: Jacopone da Todi 2. Attending to Faces in a Dark Mirror

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When we aim to understand ourselves in a deeper way, and spend time focussing inwards, the dark impressions which we recover at first are not reassuring. We may experience our soul’s troubled waters as a shadowy pool. What light we find there feels moody, insubstantial and even riddled with foreboding.

When St. Paul said ‘we see as through a glass darkly’, (1 Corinthians 13:12) it was surely the kind of seeing we attempt to enjoy as the character and creative traits of others. But at first we are not skilled in reading these correctly. We meet the mistrust and suspicion of others, or display to them more of our own suspicion than we would have wished them to notice. Jacopone tackles this clash well.

“Draw yourself up to your full stature

And thunder me a sermon for the mote in my eye.

You scorn me, oblivious of the beam in your own.

Tend your own wounds, so wide and deep they cannot heal.

 

“Students of Scripture, you want to preach,

And point out the darkness in my life, ignoring yours;

You make a show of your exterior, and have little love

For anyone who would search your heart instead.”

We sometimes wonder, when we lock horns, who will back down first? But as Christians we each have reserves of humility in our shady, glassy inner pool. We have to trust these and plunge into them as we would plunge into God, for the sake of a genuine friendship.

 

Chris D.

October 2016.

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22 November: Inter-Galactic Discoveries: XV The Sands of the Sea 3

 

Margate we live in hope

In the end, all teasing and parakeet safaris forgotten, the three Ossyrian agents did end up trooping down to the beach. It was late November and the water, reflecting the slate-grey of the overhead sky, was far too cold for a swim, yet, in the distance, a frisky pair of Labradors did frolic in the icy surf; oblivious to the numbing temperature, having a fine, wet, afternoon romp.

The two Chihuahuas, ever wary of dogs much larger than themselves, nevertheless watched the pair of Labs from a safe distance with unfeigned interest. The sight of the splashing dogs triggered an intense recollection for one of the Chihuahuas. Ajax vividly remembered the day in mid-September, less than a week after their reunion with the Director in Margate and the whole southeast in the grip of a great muggy heatwave, when ‘T’ had thoroughly amazed them all by shrugging his shoulders and muttering, almost with resignation, ‘This is ridiculous. I mean, here we are sweating away inside and outside, while just across the street lies a great, luscious, refreshing body of cool blue water. Guys…’ he paused, gulping, ‘I don’t care how cold the water is this far north (wistful memories of the languid Pacific still fresh); I’m going for a paddle…aw, what the heck? Make that a dip!!’
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The Chihuahuas were scandalised to the feathery tips of twitching tails as, ten minutes later, they crHarry_Dubai+Seaowded into the great bay window, damp noses pressed against the glass, and watched the Director cross the busy street outside dressed in flip flops, a garish blue and white ‘Tommy Bahama’ swimsuit, and grey tee. With a tattered beach towel tucked under one arm he headed down to the Margate sands, kicked off the flip flops, shed the tee…and resolutely waded into the surging tide; waist deep then up to his chest…shoulders, until he suddenly disappeared.

Mesmerised by the sight, both Chihuahuas, watching through the high bay window, were, at first, frozen in a static tableau by their stunned amazement. Seconds later, Alfie, thoroughly confused by ‘T’s eccentric behaviour and more than a little worried, began pawing and leaping at the unyielding glass, barking his frantic concern. Some relief was eventually had when the Director’s head of greying hair could be discerned above the water and, finally, the rest of him (clad in the vividly blue and white ‘Tommy Bahamas’) as he drifted, floating on his back; seemingly suspended at a mystical junction of blue on blue where the immensity of the Thanet sky met its match in the English Channel.

When the Director returned to the flat a half an hour later he walked with a jaunty step and there was a discernable sparkle in his deep brown eyes. The pair of Chihuahuas sulked in a corner, narrowed eyes appraising him with suspicion. ‘T’, for his part, nodded enigmatically before excusing himself in order to shed the soggy swim trunks and pat down his salt-spiked hair. He eventually returned to the front room dressed in normal fashion and looking distinctly refreshed. Plopping down in the old charity shop rattan chair tucked into the bay he beamed at the two Chihuahuas, ‘Guys, that was just great! I can hardly believe that we’ve been here all this time and right across the street, well…’ he trailed off with a blissful look on his homely face.

Daring to break his silence and fully aware of the gravity of the situation, which was about to border on insubordination, Alfie piped up, ‘But ‘T’, how could you??!’ He shot a worried look at Ajax in a silent plea for support, ‘We HATE getting wet!!’ ‘Yeah, I reckoned that was the case a long time ago.’ Far from sounding upset, the Director didn’t seem concerned at all. Cracking a yawn, he continued, ‘You didn’t think I noticed that when we go out for a walk that you two will even dance around a puddle – just so your paws won’t get wet?’ The canines were freshly scandalised when ‘T’ laughed out loud. ‘And remember the look on Ajax’s face when he jumped on the green scum covering Will Turnstone’s pond thinking it was grass…and disappeared under the water? Oh, just priceless!!’ There were tears of mirth in his eyes. ‘Why??!! How could you?? I just don’t understand, ‘T’,’ Alfie beamed; and was there just a hint of reproach in his tone? ‘T’ suddenly blinked. ‘Oh! I get it… You two think that if someone likes something that you don’t like it must be wrong. Yeah?’

Ajax would have blushed if Chihuahuas were capable of that sort of thing but Alfie refused to be cowed by the Director’s bantering tone. ‘Well,’ he growled, ‘isn’t it?’ The Director’s mirth gave way to familiar reflection as, reaching down, he lightly scratched behind the diminutive tricolour’s ears. ‘Sometimes it is,’ he agreed without reluctance, ‘but there are other times when one Chihuahua’s ceiling may be another Chihuahua’s floor.’

TJH

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Good News, not Good Advice.

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The word “Gospel” means “good news,” not “good advice.” The gospels are not so much a spiritual and moral theology book that tell us what we should be doing, but are more an account of what God has already done for us, is still doing for us, and the wonderful dignity that this bestows on us. Of course the idea is that since we are gifted in this way our actions should reflect that dignity rather than the opposite. Morality is not a command, it’s an invitation; not a threat, but a reminder of who we truly are. We become taller and less petty when we remember what kind of family we ultimately come from.

We all have two souls, two hearts, and two minds. Inside of each of us there’s a soul, heart, and mind that’s petty, that’s been hurt, that wants vengeance that wants to protect itself, that’s frightened of what’s different, that’s prone to gossip, that’s racist, that perennially feels cheated. Seen in a certain light, all of us are as small in stature as Zacchaeus. But there’s also a tall, big-hearted person inside each of us, someone who wants to warmly embrace the whole world, beyond personal hurt, selfishness, race, creed, and politics.

The world isn’t divided up between big-hearted and small-minded people. Rather our days are divided up between those moments when we are big-hearted, generous, warm, hospitable, unafraid, wanting to embrace everyone and those moments when we are petty, selfish, over-aware of the unfairness of life, frightened, and seeking only to protect ourselves and our own safety and interests. We are both tall and short at the same time and either of these can manifest itself from minute to minute.

For John of the Cross, this is the way we heal:

We heal not by confronting all of our wounds and selfishness head-on, which would overwhelm us and drown us in discouragement, but by growing to what he calls “our deepest centre.” For him, this centre is not first of all some deep place of solitude inside the soul, but rather the furthest place of growth that we can attain, the optimum of our potential. To grow to what our deepest DNA has destined us for is what makes us whole, makes us tall—humanly, spiritually, and morally.

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Thus, if John of the Cross were your spiritual director and you went to him with some moral flaw or character deficiency, his first counsel would be: What are you good at? What have you been blessed with? Where, in your life and work, does God’s goodness and beauty most shine through? If you can grow more and more towards that goodness, it will fan into an ever larger flame which eventually will become a fire that cauterises your faults. When you walk tall there will be less and less room for what’s small and petty to manifest itself.

But to walk tall means to walk within our God-given dignity. Nothing else, ultimately, gives us as large an identity. That’s useful also to remember when we challenge each other: Gospel-challenge doesn’t shame us with our pettiness, it invites us to what’s already best inside us.

AMcC.

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14 September. The dining room is a microcosm of the world: Luke 14.

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Jesus was on trial. People were watching him to see what kind of person he was. The irony is, of course, that he was also watching them. They were concerned about who occupied the coveted place of honour. The place of honour is literally, the first couch, at the highest kind of formal meal, a reclining feast. We are watching a social drama. The dining room was a theatre. The closer to your host, the more important you were. Place at dinner showed position in society.

We have seen enough humiliated politicians being carted off to prison whilst all their former friends who have eaten their bread, drunk their wine, done their favours and benefited from their patronage, go to ground and refuse to know them anymore. The highest place can be quickly changed for the lowest place and there is no shortage of gloating onlookers happy to say ‘I always knew this would happen’.

The dining room is a microcosm of the world, reflecting the accepted order in it. For the host the occasion was a mirror in which he could see his own power and privilege reflected. He was at the centre, this artificial world turned on the host who called it into being. Wanting recognition and the trappings of fame is actually a failure in proper self-love and self-worth. The banqueters look at the gathering in order to see themselves reflected in the esteem and acceptance of the others. They are looking for their own true image, but the true image of humanity is there with them. Here is what is to be truly human: Jesus. They are watching him but they cannot see him, because they are too taken up with what people will think.

  • to be continued.

AMcC

 

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July 29: Walk on by … or Not!

 

Holding my trusty bike, I waited on the platform while six or seven passengers left my homeward-bound train. The first among them dropped a plastic wallet; I expected one of those following to retrieve and return it to her.

No-one did, so that left me.

I duly picked it up; it contained her tickets and Oyster card.

mercylogoThere was a railwayman close by who had not seen the incident. I gave him the wallet; he thanked me and went after the woman.

‘She’s the lady in the blue headdress’, I told him as I boarded my train.

Other passengers must have seen her drop the wallet; some walked around it. Were they just self-absorbed, or were they unwilling or afraid to approach a Muslim woman?

If we want peace, we must live peaceful lives. That does not mean ‘minding our own business’; rather it means treating everyone as a neighbour.

A few days later, on another part of the network:

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(Tweeted by NAIB2, 21.6.2016)

Which of these three, in thy opinion, was neighbour to him that fell among the robbers?

But he said: He that shewed mercy to him. And Jesus said to him: Go, and do thou in like manner.

                               Luke 10:36-37.

MMB.

 

 

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Light V. Amid the encircling gloom.

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1 Lead, kindly light, amid the encircling gloom,
lead thou me on;
the night is dark, and I am far from home;
lead thou me on.
Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see
the distant scene; one step enough for me.

2 I was not ever thus, nor prayed that thou
shouldst lead me on;
I loved to choose and see my path; but now
lead thou me on.
I loved the garish day, and, spite of fears,
pride ruled my will: remember not past years.

3 So long thy power hath blest me, sure it still
will lead me on,
o’er moor and fen, o’er crag and torrent, till
the night is gone,
and with the morn those angel faces smile,
which I have loved long since, and lost awhile.

It’s well known that Newman wrote these lines at a time of loneliness and crisis in his life. Perhaps, in his illness, being indeed far from his physical home, he found the dark night more frightening than usual. But he made this prayer in that moment, one we can all make our own, verse by verse.

MMB.

Portrait of Newman by William Charles Ross, public domain.
William Charles RossNewman: https://archive.org/stream/newmanfran00barruoft#page/64/mode/2up

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