Tag Archives: loyalty
When we were on pilgrimage we always had at least one dog with us, so we adapted parts of the book of Tobit for our midday prayers. Dogs don’t always get a good press in the Bible, but in this book the dog is a faithful companion, as was Sam, seen here.
Old Tobit was blind and worn out. One day he remembered that his cousin Raguel was looking after some money for him in a town far away. He sent his son Tobias to collect the money. Before he left home, Tobias met the Angel Raphael, who was in disguise.
Raphael says he knows the way across the river, through the desert and over the mountain and agrees to go with Tobias. They say goodbye to Tobit and Anna his wife, and the dog follows behind them.
The first evening they camped beside the River Tigris. Tobias was washing his feet in the river when a monstrous fish leapt out and tried to swallow his foot. He gave a yell and the angel said, ‘Catch the fish; don’t let it get away.’ The boy caught the fish and pulled it onto the bank. Raphael said, ‘Cut it open; take out the gall, heart and liver and throw the rest of the guts away, but the gall and heart and liver make good medicine.’ The rest of the fish they cooked and pickled to eat on the way.
Look how the dog is faithful to Tobias! ‘Wherever you are going, I will go.’ he does not know that they are going across the river, through the desert and over the mountains, for days and days. He just knows Tobias needs him.
And God gives Tobias another companion, a real angel in disguise called Raphael. All Tobias knows about him is that Raphael knows the way across the river, through the desert and over the mountains.
But he knows more than that! He knows how to use part of the fish for medicine, so they save that and eat the rest. Fish and chips tomorrow for us and nobody nibbling out toes.
Let’s thank God for our companions on the journey, for our guardian angels, and our friends and family. May we be as faithful as Tobias and the dog.
The Christian has to ask how to evaluate other religions. We are all engaged in the work of transforming the world alongside people who are striving for the same goal and contributing equally as much for its realisation. Yet many belong to another religion or faith community.
The question: do these people participate in the work and fruits of salvation in spite of their own religious commitment or because of it? Christianity has answered this variously through the ages, but with answers heavily influenced by cultural experiences and national belongings. It is not easy to disentangle Christian tradition from social and cultural theories.
Before reflecting on these, it must be remembered that the Christian understanding of Judaism must be discussed separately; the relationship between Judaism and Christianity is unique, and in fairly recent times the French Biblical scholar Paul Démann has undertaken this in various articles to do with the relationship between Judaism in Christianity. He makes many suggestions, but many questions remain unsolved and a full theology of Christian understanding of Judaism has yet to appear.
It is abundantly clear that there is salvation in Judaism and the coming of Jesus in history did not take this salvation away. Scripture asserts that God made an everlasting covenant with Israel – you shall be my people and I will be your God; and through them all nations on the earth will be blessed. God kept promising a new covenant – not that the old one would pass away to be replaced by another, rather would the old one become new again as each generation made it its own; and written, not on stone, but on hearts of flesh.
All these promises were verified again and again in Judaism. Although Christians have not always been aware of it, Jews have continued to live passionately in fidelity to the covenant. Under tough conditions – exile, dispersion, persecution and holocaust – they continued to make the covenant ever fresh and new in succeeding generations.
I thought too, at first, that the feeling on your part was a mere generous impulse, likely to expend itself in a week perhaps.It affects me and has affected me, very deeply, more than I dare attempt to say, that you should persist so—and if sometimes I have felt, by a sort of instinct, that after all you would not go on to persist, and that (being a man, you know) you might mistake, a little unconsciously, the strength of your own feeling; you ought not to be surprised; when I felt it was more advantageous and happier for you that it should be so. In any case, I shall never regret my own share in the events of this summer, and your friendship will be dear to me to the last. You know I told you so—not long since.”
from “The Letters of Robert Browning and Elizabeth Barrett Barrett, Vol. 1 (of 2) 1845-1846″ by Robert Browning, available on Kindle and online.
It can be hard to accept that we are loved, whether by God or another human being. Surely we have experienced those ‘mere generous impulses’ which come to nothing but scratch a few scars on the heart in the process.
Jesus – in this world, in his time – stayed long enough to reassure his disciples that their friendship was dear to him to the last. And while Peter (the past master of generous impulses) may always have regretted his share in the events of that spring, he received the grace to feed the Lord’s sheep and be faithful to the last.
The clasped hands of Robert and Elizabeth Barrett Browning, cast by Harriet Hosmer, Metropolitan Museum of Art. This file is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication.
By the very right of your senses you enjoy the World. Is not the beauty of the Hemisphere
present to your eye? Doth not the glory of the Sun pay tribute to your sight? Is not the vision of the World an amiable thing? Do not the stars shed influences to perfect the Air? Is not that a marvellous body to breathe in? To visit the lungs: repair the spirits, revive the senses, cool the blood, fill the empty spaces between the Earth and Heavens; and yet give liberty to all objects?
Prize these first: and you shall enjoy the residue: Glory, Dominion, Power, Wisdom; Honour, Angels, Souls, Kingdoms, Ages. Be faithful in a little, and you shall be master over much. If you be not faithful in esteeming these; who shall put into your hands the true Treasures? If you be negligent in prizing these, you will be negligent in prizing all. For there is a disease in him who despiseth present mercies, which till it be cured, he can never be happy. He esteemeth nothing that he hath, but is ever gaping after more: which when he hath he despiseth in like manner.
Insatiableness is good, but not ingratitude.
Behind this garage door is a garage, as you might expect, but this is London, where you can expect the unexpected.
In this case, the archives of the Archdiocese of Westminster. There’s a postern within the door that a researcher can be let through, then past the car and into a warm welcome from the archivists.
Public Domain, via Wikipedia
The archives hold material from well before the Archdiocese came into being in 1850, including works of Bishop Richard Challoner, 1691-1781, who was Bishop in London when Catholics still were not supposed to exist, so he lived and worked in secret, ever in danger of arrest or attack. He wrote extensively for his flock, including a catechism, a revision of the Douay Bible translation, and the Garden of the Soul, a prayer book designed for people who had to live for long periods without the Sacraments or a priest visiting.
In this week of prayer for Christian Unity, let us thank God for the freedom to worship enjoyed in Britain today, and pray for those Christians elsewhere who may not worship as their conscience and loyalty lead them to.
Here is a page from the Garden, describing how to start the day. Not bad advice at all, though parents may feel it’s not entirely practical! It’s the coffee after they’ve left the house that allows a moment of morning offering for some of us; but read on!
The story of John the Baptist’s father, Zechariah, and his encounter with the archangel Gabriel, has been an important one in the Church’s Advent liturgy. Every year we hear St. Luke’s narrative (1:5-25) on December 19th at Mass, one of those privileged days in the final week before the great Feast of the Nativity of Our Lord.
To be honest, I have often felt a bit sorry for Zechariah. First, his outstanding personality and goodness is mostly eclipsed by his extraordinary son, John. We tend to forget about Zechariah. Then, when Zechariah does figure in sermons, he is often portrayed as the perfect example of how not to act when one is vouchsafed an angelic visitation. He is usually contrasted with Our Lady, who also received an angelic visitation, and who is perfect. Now, I have no problem with Our Lady being perfect. She is. But I contend that Zechariah, although not perfect, is a loveable and heroic man, and should be given credit for getting quite a lot of important things right. I have found that he can be a good companion to have during the season of Advent.
Zechariah’s story comes at the beginning of St. Luke’s gospel in chapter one (all biblical texts in these posts are taken from the New Jerusalem Bible).
In the days of King Herod of Judaea there lived a priest called Zechariah who belonged to the Abijah section of the priesthood, and he had a wife, Elizabeth by name, who was a descendant of Aaron. Both were upright in the sight of God and impeccably carried out all the commandments and observances of the Lord. But they were childless. Elizabeth was barren and they were both advanced in years (1:5-7).
The first thing I notice here is that both Zechariah and Elizabeth are ‘upright in the sight of God.’ To my knowledge, it is a rare thing in the bible to be described as upright in the sight of God. As I linger over this phrase and repeat it slowly to myself, a picture begins to form in my mind of a married couple who pray together every day, who are united both spiritually and physically, and who strive to discern God’s will together. Moreover, we learn from St. Luke that Zechariah and his wife ‘impeccably carried out all the commandments and observances of the Lord.’ Impeccably is a strong word. Who among us can be described in this way with regard to all God’s commands? On the contrary, it is so easy to think, ‘Oh, the Lord didn’t mean me to do that all the time. Surely, I can let myself off this or that practice today. He’ll understand.’ Yet, St. Luke implies that neither Zechariah nor his wife thought in such terms. This is made more impressive by the fact that they were “advanced in years.” Their integrity is not, therefore, a case of the neophyte’s fervour: Zechariah and Elizabeth are an example of long-term, day in and day out faithfulness. They are a holy couple.
Yet, they are childless. This, as verse twenty-five will indicate, was a very deep humiliation for both of them. Barrenness was a cause of shame at that time, and was even seen as God’s punishment. But, what had they done? They were upright in the sight of God; they were innocent, faithful and devout. Yet, their prayers for a child had been unanswered and now it was too late. They are too old.
Perhaps many of us can relate to this. We know that we are not perfect, but at the same time, something painful is happening or has happened to us that we know we do not deserve. What do we do? How do we deal with this? It can be helpful to draw near in prayer to this holy couple, Zechariah and Elizabeth, who had been enduring something painful and humiliating for a very long time. They do not turn away from God in anger. They accept their childlessness, and the unanswered questions they surely had, and they continue faithfully in their life with God, day by day, carrying out his will as they understood it. They are upright in the sight of God. Perhaps they became so precisely through their prayerful acceptance of a sorrow they could not understand.
Walking together through the desert – Zechariah and Elizabeth.
The Builder’s Dog in his Hi-Vis coat was wary when he entered Will’s place. Were those Chihuahuas around? Nor scent nor sound nor scratch marks on the gate. All was well, except that he had a stretch of time, impossible to contemplate, without his mistress who could not take him on her sunshine holiday.
The food was good – exactly the same as at home, except for treats like scraps of Sunday dinner. The walks were OK, except that the Mistress was not there and Will and Mrs T avoided walking down BD’s home street. But the park and Abbot’s Hill were full of smells that humans were utterly unaware of.
It was coming down Abbot’s Hill one evening that BD gave Will his reward. Or was it the other way around? An urgent, complicated overlay of scented canine communication required close study, and BD was pleasantly surprised not to feel the lead jerk. Will, too, was fixed to the spot. He was listening to a Blackcap, perched in a suburban Japanese cherry tree, singing his heart out, ignoring the human and dog below.
As Will said later, there’s always something to be grateful for. And he enjoyed another little link as he researched this post: according to Wikipedia, the Blackcap’s song provided the theme for Saint Francis when that famous bird lover Olivier Messiaen wrote his Opera, Saint François d’Assise. Not just any bird then!
Yesterday’s reflection seemed incomplete after I’d set it down, though I could not put my finger on why until I found this passage from the pioneering Anglican Franciscan, Father Andrew:
Try to keep a brave will. Minds may wander and hearts feel cold, but if the will is trudging on, however heavily, love is loyal.
The most costly service is really the truest service. it is all part of that spiritual mortification which is part of the inevitable process of the soul’s education.
Mortification is not a word that springs to my mind all that often – this is the first time I’ve tagged it on this blog in 18 months. Maybe I’m just such a big softie that I was rewarded with the snowdrop for the mini-motrification of trudging on with my litter picking. Well, I was glad to see the snowdrop. Laudato Si!
by Agent Ajax/Bogmerlg
Observations to the Central Committee (CC) on Canine Human Interaction: Case Study of Noreen: Sheet 2
Triangulation of telepaths on earth is difficult with two Ossyrian receivers close together and a moving target but the intensity of the signal showed it was from nearby. Agent Alfie jerked his lead out of Will’s hand, ran a few metres away and sat on the grass. Chihuahuax’ ears are also excellent telepath receptors so we established that the signals came from a child’s buggy, pushed by Noreen.
It was Agent Hableehm! She had missed the return flight to Ossyria after the first expedition. When the Director had called agents to embark, she was locked in an Anderson shelter, unable to receive telepaths through the steel plates. She escaped when chasing a rat down a drain but found herself on the street with no desire to eat rats and no communication from the expedition.
Noreen had found her lying in the woods, ‘all skin and bones’, and taken her in. Not wishing the convalescent Jack Russell to pine indoors, she brought Hableehm out each evening in the buggy. Hableehm had telepathed her name to Noreen, a fine receptor for an adult human, but Noreen understood it as Melba. ‘Melba will soon be running round with Mitzi’, Noreen said to Will, ‘the vet says I look after her so well she has to get better.’
We had thought that Agent Hableehm had perished but that almost happened only after we had left her. Now we could take her home for rehabilitation.
‘I’m staying with Noreen,’ she insisted. ‘I owe my life to her. Life as a dog with Noreen is better than living in my solo pod where all is calm and all is grey. I enjoy being fed treats and being groomed. I enjoy walks, I even enjoyed chasing rats but I did not being locked up, that was even darker than pod life.
I like being Melba; life is short, life is sweet.’
Top photo: Agent Alfie