Tag Archives: Grace

16 May: A Prayer from Prison

stairs.v.e.A Prayer from Prison

Please keep in your thoughts and prayers –

all those who have left us

to rejoin society:

That they may continue

to do well

and never again

return to

Prison.

Lord in your mercy,

Hear our prayer.    Anon.

Let us pray, too, for all who minister in prison, chaplains, staff and other prisoners.

Let us remember those in prison elsewhere in the world where conditions can be insanitary and dangerous. 

Lord in your Mercy, hear our prayer.

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The Latest News from L’Arche at Asha Vani in India.

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Here is more news from the L’Arche Community called Asha Vani in India.

Tension is Good?

Jean Vanier said, “Communities need tensions if they are to grow and deepen. …Every tension, every crisis can become a source of new life if we approach it wisely, or it can bring death and division.” At Asha Niketan Nandi Bazar we have moments of grace and moments of challenge. I n the midst of tension, it is easy to feel sad, lonely, or angry (or all three). We must learn how to recognize and be present to these feelings in a healthy way. If we do not, they will begin to take joy and love from our own lives and the lives of those around us. In communities like Asha Niketan, this can be dangerous. We must use our challenges to help us practice patience, understanding, and communication. We must remember: every challenge creates an opportunity for growth; every challenge helps us to see the truth; and every challenge invites us to lean deeper into God’s love.

Bypass Update

As many of you know, we have been attempting to change the alignment of the Nandhi-Chengottukavu Bypass Road. Thanks to many efforts, a new alignment has been released that effects our community with less drastic results. We will lose land and a few older buildings ; however, we will be able to remain functioning as a community. Still, there are many persons

protesting the bypass completely. We wait to see what comes of these protests.

Feet Washing

Every year our community holds a feet washing ceremony, an important tradition upheld by L’Arche communities all over the world. This ceremony is from theChristian tradition, and imitates the story of Jesus washing his disciples feet on Holy Thursday. It is incredibly symbolic to Asha

Niketan ’s values of justice and equality. As we wash each other ’s feet, we are reminded that God created us to be equals, and to help one another as friends.

40 Year Celebration

We would like to express our sincere thanks to all those who supported and attended our 40th Anniversary Celebration on January 27th! Important messages, dance performances, musical performances, and an intentional drama made for a celebratory event. Thank you to everyone in the community for their the hard work and commitment. We recognize that the

event was not perfect, of course, but we would like to express our apologies for areas that were not considered well. Yet, the celebration aside, we are thankful to have lived a vibrant forty years of community life. Much has changed over the years, and more change is surely to come, yet our mission will remain the same : to be a sign of hope in the world that peace is possible. We will continue to be “home of hope” where people with and without intellectual disabilities can realize and practice theirgifts. And with this, we look forward to the next full and fantastic forty years to come.

Thikkodi Sports Day

On December 3rd, the community made its way to Thikkodi Beach for some friendly competition to celebrate International Day of Persons with Disabilities. It was a long day full of sun, sweat, sand, and fun! Community members participated in events such as races, jumping competitions, and musical chairs. Each competition brought laughter and joy, leaving everyone feeling like a winner. Check out a short video on our YouTube channel!

Christmas and New Years

The community celebrated vibrant and cheerful Christmas and New Years celebrations.

With Christmas day came a full program which included family, friends, songs, prayer, a drama, dancing, gifts, and, of course, food. It was quite the day! New Years was a bit more relaxed with a smaller celebration between residential members on the evening of December 31st.

On Januar y 19 th we lost one of our beloved community members, Pajeesh. He shared life with us for over 18 years, and he will remain present in our hearts for years to come. His passing left us all fondly reflecting on moments, gifts, and lessons shared from his friendship. Prajeesh’s presence is deeply missed, but we know he has been welcomed into an infinitely joyful and loving community above.

Rest In Peace, Prajeesh

Happy Welcome

Over the past few months, we have said both, “Farewell” and “Welcome” to a number of community members. To those who have left the community, we wish you peace and success in the next step of your journey.

As for our newcomers, we wish you a warm and happy welcome! Aswanth, Ragesh, and Muhammad Salmin have been welcomed as core members in our day programmes. It has been exciting to see them begin to find their place, and offer their gifts. Vishnu has been welcomed as a residential core member in Deepalayam house, where he has brought a lively and playful spirit. Additionally, we have embraced two new assistants and one volunteer. Baskar has become an assistant in Prabalayam house, where he has shown a strong work ethic, as well as aptitude for fun and friendship. Felna has become an assistant in Anandalayam house, where she has brought a positive, youthful, and patient presence to the quiet home. And lastly, we have welcomed P raveena for a short term volunteer position, and she has been a joyful, confident, and helpful presence.

It is a joy to grow alongside these newcomers, and witness their gifts being discovered and shared with our community.

Community Founder Visit

In December we were graced with a visit from Chris Sadler the community’s founder! Her presence was inspiring and eye-opening. She has a beautiful connection with many community members, and, having been involved from the community’s beginning, she offers a unique perspective on our way of life. Thanks to her visit, we were able to share in some special moments and fun activities, and also open our eyes to areas where we are in need of adjustment and growth. We are so thankful for her inspiring storytelling, constructive suggestions, gentle encouragements, and, of course, her lovely laughter!

It was so hard to say goodbye. We wish her nothing but peace, joy, and presence for all her days.

(Note : Listen to her message to the community on our YouTube page, or read the transcription below)

Cinema Outing

I n February we took a group of over 60 community members out for lunch, a small program, and a movie. Needless to say, it was quite the outing! A ll were happy to share some time together outside the community grounds, and we even managed to grab the attention of the local news! How could we not with such a vibrant group ?

National Assembly 2017-2018

In January, representatives from Asha Niketan communitiesall over India came together for a week of formation and meetings at the annual National Assembly held this year in Calicut. L’Arche International Co-Leader, Stephan Posner, his wife, Yaël Posner, and L’Arche Asia Delegate, Tim Kearney, were also present. Yaël and our own international volunteer, Parker, headed the formation for the Core Member group throughout the week. Parker said, “This was a very special opportunity. We were from all over the world, and, despite our differences, we were able to foster legitimate relationships through creating art, taking walks, singing, dancing, eating, praying, and simply sitting together. I think we all learned a lot. ” There certainly was a lot of relationship building , learning, and sitting together for everyone throughout the week. Thank you to our leaders and the staff at SRC Christ Hall who worked hard to make it a success !

L’Arche International Co-Leader Visit

With the National Assembly being held so close to home, this means we were lucky enough to receive a visit from one of the L’Arche International Leaders, Stephan, and his wife, Yaël. They stayed with us for two nights and shared some special moments with our community. One evening, Stephan gave us some words of encouragement. He looked at Lancy, our eldest community member, and said, “This man is changing the world.” He was reminding us that we change the world one person at a time by building real mutual relationships with one another. Within these relationships we experience a personal change that opens our hearts and minds to greater understanding — hopefully one of greater gentleness, justice, and love. This change then spreads out into the world as we live out our lives with this new vision and energy. Needless to say, their visit was a very memorable experience for each

one of us !

National Leader Visit

We were happy to welcome Rajeevan at the beginning of March for his annual ivsit to our community. He held meetings with all the members of the community over the course of a few days. P rasannan, a core member from Prahbalayam House, talked with excitement for many days leading up to his meeting with Rajeevan. And although not many of us can match Prasannan’s excitement for meetings, meetings with Rajeevan are never dreaded because of the sincere concern, wise encouragement, and genuine conversation he always shares. We are thankful to have had him visit, and we are thankful to have him as our National Leader.

Tour Programmes

In March we went on two tours. One group went to Bangalore for three days, where they enjoyed a stay with the Asha Niketan Bangalore community. During their stay, they visited Lalbagh Park , the local zoo and safari, the local markets, and Infant Jesus Shrine. We cannot thank those at AN Bangalore enough for their very generous welcome and hospitality. Later, an additional group enjoyed a single day tour relaxing on a local houseboat. It was a full day of time shared togetherwith scenic views and a cool breeze off the water. Thank you to all who organized these successful and joyful tours!

A Message From Our Founder, Chr is Sadler

Greetings to you all.

Some people are kind enough to honor me with the name of Founder of Asha Niketan in Nandi Bazar, but this is not quite true. God is the foundation of all our lives. And there are many people behind me whom I would like to remember: Mr. Premanand who gave us the land, Gabriel who really helped to develop Asha Niketan in India, and Mr. Jayaprekash who was very helpful to me when I arrived in Calicut. And also Jean Vanier who founded L’Arche, and was a great inspiration to all of us.

Beside me are Subbaiyan, Gnanam, and Kanaran, and Haneefa and Unni, and also Mithran, Viswanthan, Lancy Ettan, and Remesh. I would like to say a few things, especially in honor of these four people with whom I have shared so many years.Viswanthan, who was the first of our founders to leave us from this earth, came from the mental hospital, came from a place of great degradation, and he amazingly brought to me and to many a spirit of resilience, cou rage, and joy. And Mithran, who came to us from Payyoli, and who has among many other things taught me to face my own fears. And Remesh, who struggled with inner voices and a whole history of bullying and rejection, but who taught me a lot about the funny side of life. And also how to keep dreaming and hoping . And I also want to remember Lancy Ettan whose gentleness has transformed many of us, and changed us into people who learn to listen to one another and care in the most gentle way, and then begin to treat ourselves and others with the same gentleness.

So these are the people I remember beside me as we started this community.

And now I want to remember and give thanks for all those who are in front of us. That is you. Each one of you is important. Each one of you matters. Each one of you has something unique to bring to our world. More than ever our world needs respect and healing . We need peace and joy, and the welcome of our differences. Our world needs us to be the best that we

can be.

Once Viswanthan was asked by a visitor, “To which God do you pray here?” And Viswanthan, in his inimitable capacity to be profound, said, “I do not know which God, all I know is that we pray in the light.” And a nother time he sang with h is whole heart, “Oh God, Oh God, I am here because of your love.” May our hope, our “asha,” be always

in light and in love. That’s it.

+91 49626 91620

ashacltnandi@gmail.com

Community Leader Noelia : noegrifell@hotmail.com

Chairman Dr. Sreedharan : drsridar@yahoo.co. in

ashaniketancalicutnandhibazar.org

@ashaniketannandibazar

Asha Niketan Nandi Bazar

Thank you for reading!

Want to Help?

Our community is always open to donations. At the moment we are looking for someone to donate some wooden furniture in both of our male residential homes. We have a number of

plastic chairs that are unable to withstand the daily use from community members. If you have furniture you would like to donate, or would like to sponsor new furniture, please contact our office by phone or email !

Additionally, all are excited for the coming Vishu holiday. If you arefeeling generous and would like to donate a Vishu gift to community members, we would be very excited to

accept! Core members are always in need of items such as clothing, soap, and other daily amenities. That said, all at Asha Niketan Nandi Bazar wish you a very joyful V ishu !

 

 

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18 April : A comforting doctrine: telling the truth in art. (Telling truth II)

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Edward Ardizzone was employed as an official War Artist during World War II, serving in North Africa, including El Alamein, then the invasion of Italy and the Normandy Landings. How does an artist convey the horrors and humanity of War? Ardizzone’s soldiers and civilians are human, drawn with a loving understanding of our fallen but persistently rising nature. This picture shows a scene on the beaches during the Normandy Landings and is from the Imperial War Museum, released on the public domain.

A couple of months before he had confided in his diary:

[I] have a feeling that painters should not be interested in metaphysics – should be simple people entirely absorbed in what they do. If they are big themselves, what they do is big – if little, little; but only a matter of degree like major and minor poets and not to be bothered about. A comforting doctrine for me who am feeling incredibly small at the moment.

Let us pray that sometime today we may experience the grace of being entirely absorbed in what we do: loving what we do, as Ardizzone loved his work and the humans he was painting.

MMB.

Diary of a War Artist, Edward Ardizzone, Bodley Head, 1974. Worth seeking out.

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January 15: Reflections from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis. I.

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Of Brother Bernard of Quintavalle , first companion of St Francis

THE first companion of Saint Francis was Brother Bernard of Assisi, who was converted in this wise: While Saint Francis was still in the secular habit, albeit he had already despised the world, and went about being wholly held in scorn of men, mortifying his flesh by penances, in so much that by many he was thought foolish and was mocked at as a mad fellow, and was driven away with stones and foul abuse by his kinsfolk and by strangers, yet bore himself patiently amid all manner of ignominy and reproach, as though he were deaf and dumb: Bernard of Assisi, the which was of the noblest, and richest, and wisest in the city, began wisely to take heed unto Saint Francis, how exceeding strong his contempt of the world, how great his patience in the midst of wrongs, so that albeit for a two years’ space thus evil intreated of all persons and despised, he ever seemed the more constant; then he began to ponder and to say within himself: “In no wise can it be that this brother hath not abundant grace from God”; so he called him one evening to sup and lodge with him: and Saint Francis consented thereto and supped with him and lodged.

And thereat Bernard set it in his heart to watch his sanctity: wherefore he let make ready for him a bed in his own proper chamber, in the which at night-time ever a lamp did burn. And Saint Francis, for to hide his sanctity, when he was come into the chamber, incontinent did throw himself upon the bed and made as though he slept: and likewise Bernard after some short space set himself to lie down and fell to snoring loudly, in fashion as though he slept right soundly.

To be continued. But did Francis sleep?

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January 10: Temperance IV: Our Appetites and our Reason

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Our human nature was created by God in such a way as to insure our survival as a species. The bodily appetites that deliver the most pleasure also happen to be the very ones we most need in order to keep us going on the planet earth. In themselves, they are good, as St. Thomas affirms, and there is nothing wrong with the pleasure they give. But, paradoxically, we need some moderation in these areas in order to enjoy the pleasure they give. How do we manage this?

There is very little in our secular culture to help us here. The advertising media exploits all our appetites in order to sell its products, thereby increasing our desire to posses those products and experience those pleasures, and giving us a vague feeling of inferiority if we do not. Being sexually active is presented as the greatest and most fulfilling human experience by the story-line of most films, plays and television shows. Chastity is rarely presented at all, and almost never shown in a positive light. The pleasures of food and alcohol are raised to the level of culinary art by celebrity chefs and the entire food industry. Yet, the fact that there are a rising number of individuals pursuing Twelve Step1 programs in order to handle addictions in these areas testifies to the truth that the Church has always known and St. Thomas clearly articulated in the thirteenth century. We need self-control with regard to our pleasures.

We also need to think. Our mind, our reason is more powerful than we may realise and can give us the real guidance we need. How reassuring this information is: that we have within us the capacity to direct our growth in goodness. This is nothing to do with IQ, and everything to do with opening our mind to the truth and our heart to the promptings of grace.

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The media and pop culture rely on us not thinking very deeply – and certainly not praying – so that we may be seduced by the personalities and products the media presents, and become consumers of what they sell. If we do not think too much, then our appetite for power and pleasure and possessions will move us to buy things that the businesses supporting the media want us to buy – things that will seem to feed these appetites, and give us the illusion that we, too, look like media stars and share somehow in their life of glamour and pleasure. This is manipulation on a grand scale. This illusion is something from which we need to withdraw in order to discover our true identity. We desperately need our ability to think, we need the use of what St. Thomas would call our reason, in order to live on a level in which we see through what is fraudulent and empty. Only then will we discover the joy of living in communion with God, and with what is true, and with a set of values in which temperance as a virtue becomes possible to us.

SJC

1It is important to point out that there can be a difference between addiction and intemperance, at least where drugs and alcohol are concerned. Drug and alcohol addiction is usually considered a disease which originates in a genetic pre-disposition to it. The only “cure” is complete abstinence from all substances. This is not the place to give a full description of the characteristics of addiction. I refer those interested in learning more about this to any writings on the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

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12 December. Zechariah, an Unlikely Advent Star: Preface on Lectio Divina.

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It is always good to hear from Sister Johanna at Minster Abbey. Today she introduces her Advent reflections on Zechariah (or Zachary) by explaining how they came to her. She was reading the Gospel story of how John the Baptist came to be born to Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth when a very human and likeable figure emerged.

Lectio Divina

Lectio divina is a rather fancy Latin term that may not be known to every reader of these posts. It means ‘sacred reading’, or ‘holy reading’ and refers to the practice of slowly and prayerfully reading the bible. For a Benedictine nun or monk, lectio is a daily exercise, lasting anywhere from one to two hours, and it is a wonderful experience. But lectio is not merely a pious exercise for monks and nuns. If you take your spiritual life seriously and wish to grow closer to God, try to set aside a period of time each day for this beautiful practice. Busy people may not have time for a full hour or two, but even a daily habit of fifteen minutes can be full of grace.

If you have never tried it, lectio may seem strange at first. Reading the bible is not like reading any other book. You are not trying to ‘find out what happens next’, or quickly reach the end. You are reading a bit like a child eats an ice-cream cone: you try to make it last, and to savour each line like the child savours each lick.

Soon, the reader finds that lectio divina yields a harvest of rich meditations. This in turn leads to deeper prayer, as the Holy Spirit gives the reader new insights, which can be deeply personal ones that shed light on the way God is working in the reader’s life. I have found that writing down my lectio meditations helps them along. As I write, more insights come. The following posts are based on the meditations I have had when using the first chapter of the Gospel of Luke for my lectio.

Reading can be a window looking beyond ourselves. Zakopane. Poland.

 

 

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3 December, 1st Sunday of Advent: Star of Wonder?

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Last Christmas we saw one bright star in the sky -but it was far more to the West than the East – so it most certainly was not the Star of Bethlehem! 

In fact it was not even a star, but our planetary neighbour, Venus.

But there she was, a perfectly good reminder of the Babe of Bethlehem. Really though, reminding people of God is our job:

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Matthew 5:16

No-one can prepare the way of the Lord without light, so let’s get on quietly with those good works that our daily lives demand, and hope that people will see through the imperfect beings that we are to the Good One whose grace sustains us. After all, Venus shines with a reflected light, not her own, and that’s exactly what is asked of her.

And let’s look up to the stars – at least when the cloud cover allows – and just wonder.

MMB.

 

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2 October: Saint Thomas of Hereford.

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A Prayer of Saint Thomas of Hereford

Teach us, O God,

to view our life here on earth as a pilgrim’s path to heaven,

and give us grace to tread it courageously in the company of your faithful people.

Help us to set our affections on things above,

not on the passing vanities of this world,

and grant that as we journey on in the way of holiness

we may bear a good witness to our Lord,

and serve all who need our help along the way,

for the glory of your name. Amen

Thomas de Cantiloup was Bishop of Hereford 1275 – 1282. He was regarded as a pastoral man who cared for his people but fell foul of Archbishop Peckham and died in Italy as he went to Rome to obtain the lifting of Peckham’s excommunication of him.

Pilgrims, World Youth Day, Krakow, August 2016.

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September 12. ‘Jesus beyond Dogma’, X: My body for you

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It is said that torture is the imagination of the world; that Eucharist is the imagination of the Church. The real Jesus took real bread and identified himself with it – Tad Guzie [ex Jesuit – educator and advisor to Bishops]. We cling to life and the systems that preserve it; and we are challenged by the systems’ victims. Here is Jesus identifying himself as crucified – take and eat my body given for you. When we eat this bread and drink this cup we are taken up into the love that undermines system we live by.

This bread is my body for you to share and become, for each other, my body for you. This puts into context the reality of life as gift; my life is given to me for me to become what I am receiving, for you. My life is not for me, but for you; just as your life is not for you but for me. Notice how this can even be tested – ask anyone who freely gives self to help and serve others how do you manage with all your other commitments? The answer is always – I receive far more than I give – which means I am experiencing human living as it is meant to be. It is when your body for me becomes my body for you that the Mass is real.

It is here we see something more – Jesus victim is presented as our hope. When Jesus was tried and condemned we see active resistance to the saving will of God. However, there is nothing we can do to prevent this saving will. God’s saving will does not cease to be saving because it is not wanted. There is an open invitation with the free flowing of Grace – and as we see from Paul’s conversion – it is possible when the judges who condemn turn to their victim and recognise their hope, their saviour: There is no other name under heaven by which we will be saved – Acts.4.12, and salvation is offered for all. God can never give less than all of himself to whoever [no conditions] is willing to receive.

The Lord who judges is the saving Lord, and such is his judgement. He gave himself up for us to tell us you will be lost over my dead body – this is our judge. Judgement is not me sitting waiting anxiously for the verdict, his judgment is a relationship – turn to me and be saved! By locating this in Jerusalem we see a new priority, salvation is first offered to the guilty. Once it becomes clear that the persecuted church is the real body of Jesus-victim – I am Jesus and you are persecuting me – the definition of oppressor widens. Paul is on his way to hound the Christians in Damascus, which means there too is Jerusalem waiting for the Good News of the Resurrection, and so on as the Church spreads.

We need to recognise our victim as our hope – we need to turn to the victim and hear I am Jesus and you are persecuting me. In no way is this an abstract concept, we need to recall that this was first said to those who actually condemned this historical victim. When I make victims by judging, excluding, condemning I am setting myself up as judge, jury and executioner. But I will always be faced by the victim, and my salvation rests here, if I accept the challenge of grace to deliberately turn to ask – who you are. This is the great Easter lesson of hope – when we say only in Jesus is there salvation, this not just pious language. We are saying: only in the victim is my salvation.

Salvation does not neatly by-pass the fact and memory of guilt, rather does it build on it. Sad evidence of completely missing this point is seen in the Crusades, seeing them as justifying persecution and exclusion. The established relationship between me as judge over the victim has to be reversed, and then transcended. My behaviour is diminishing me, in judging I am victimising myself. I need another kind of relationship; I am not saved by forgetting or cancelling what I have done – Judas repented and returned the silver, he left contrite – but unforgiven – and destroyed himself.

Relating can be a complex issue – within the same relationship I can be both oppressor and victim. Having been exploited I can start to enjoy being victim, to make another feel guilty! There is no neat divide in me between victim and oppressor. Is there such a reality as a pure victim? Can I imagine a person capable of free choice, and so able to choose oppressive behaviour, who is only victim and never oppressor? Only the pure victim can be merciful. Jesus our judge is pure victim and so his judging is mercy eager to forgive.

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Throughout his trial he never counter attacks, retaining a dignified silence. He is judge because he is victim, and as pure victim is a judge who does not condemn. It is the Son, not the Father who judges because the Son is totally involved in our processes of violent injustice. Judgement on the world is not pronounced from on high, but from within the experience of pain, suffering and injustice – by the pure victim whose judgement is forgiveness. Judgement is not a task Jesus has to perform, it is his shared experience of living with us in our world, which he seeks to transform: this is the will of the one who sent me, that none should be lost – John. 6.39. This judgement is just because his sole desire is the Father’s will which is that none should be lost.

Jesus’ living his passion is not done passively, as pure victim it is creative – it is setting the world free from the treadmill of attack and revenge and it belongs wherever the condemned Jesus continues to face his judges as the mission of the Church; the cycle of oppressive relations is transformed by the judge who never condemns. The powerless sufferer, innocent or guilty, is always with God in virtue of being victim – pure or not. Conversion means turning to the victim, even when I am convinced of the rightness of my cause – as with Paul. This is not a moral issue but identifying what is causing the exclusion [justified or otherwise] – it is not me turning to God, but turning to the victim.

judasJudas is saved, not condemned, by Jesus, Lamb of God, saving victim

It is not unjust or misplaced violence that requires repentance but the act of excluding – no matter why. We need to remember for example that racism is not evil because its victims are good, but because they are human. God is not with the victim in order to make me a victim; even though our systems seek to do just that, with the oppressor becoming a victim of the victims. There is much concern for making sure our prison sentencing is sufficiently punitive, whether our counter-terrorism resources are adequate. Granting that coercion and retaliation are at times unavoidable, the fact is that our justice systems are such as to create victims, and to exclude. This is not suggesting that God sees genuine human outrage as of no consequence; it is not wrong to give in to pain and anguish seeking to react. It is saying that the wretched state of the prisoner must in some way reflect the Lamb of God.

If God is against all human diminishment, then God is within such situations. God does not condemn our kind of justice but transcends it. God is incapable of aggressive condemnation. The Gospel opens with repent and believe – it is confronting the executioners of Jesus [in the victim] asking them to accept responsibility. This is how it works – I need to let the Gospel confront me, gently; to show me my victimising ways and urge me to face my victims. Modern warfare specialises in techniques designed to avoid the consequences of our behaviour; but memories cannot be healed until they are exposed as the wounds they have caused.

AMcC

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September 8, Jesus Beyond Dogma, VI: Hope – courage blossoms out of fear

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God is totally other, we cannot say God is like… which suggests that our behaviour – good or bad – has no relevance for God, reminding us that the foundation for hope involves setting aside being concerned about our goodness or badness [I’m not as good as I think I am, nor as bad as others say I am]. We are involved with something that has nothing to do with our worthiness or it’s opposite.

We are being offered what is totally gratuitous – irrespective. When we reflect on the parable of the workers, in which the latecomers receive the same pay as those who have toiled all day [who hasn’t sympathised with them?] we see that God can never give less than all of himself to everyone. What is in our remit is how we receive this gift – do I even recognise that I have it – do I behave as if I am self-starting and self-fulfilling. Revelation tells us that God gives us to ourselves in order to become what we are receiving as life progresses – gift for others. I’m not asked am I worthy, but am I willing.

I have a friend who is doing heroic things to help the poor and needy – a veritable example of Gospel value; he is alcoholic and his personal life leaves much to be desired. It seems that being unconcerned about his personal worthiness seems to free him up to bring support and hope to so many. How different things would be if he had been restricted by the reality of I’m not good enough! Hope doesn’t mean saying be of good heart, all will work out in the end.

Hope says here is good news for me here and now. Working with Samaritan volunteers on one occasion I asked a seasoned volunteer to role play, and present herself as suicidal. One of the volunteers interviewed her and did well, until she said and always remember we love everybody here – the role player got up and left. The volunteer asked why. We don’t want to be part of everybody, we want to be somebody. Hope is me being asked to be there for others, not in spite of who I am, but because of who I am – warts and all.

It is not for us to provide goodness, bringing light into dark places that starts from our own goodness. This is where the Spirit is active, enabling us to bring good news and to foster well-being, despite our complicity in selfish living.

Only those unpreoccupied with their own goodness or badness are free enough to build what is good [and probably have no idea that this is what they are doing]. Hope for others issues solely from the total otherness of God, not from ourselves. When Jesus said I have come for sinners he is telling us that he can make my story indicative of the story precisely by removing my preoccupation with my unworthiness.

We receive ourselves from what is other than us, be that other violent or kind. Just so it is by receiving ourselves from other than us that makes us children of Abba – the original giver of life:

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is – 1John.3.2.

AMcC

Good Shepherd from Madagascar

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