As I was editing Friar Austin’s posts on the Eucharist, my bedside book was The Revolving Door of Life, by Alexander McCall Smith.* The title suggests a degree of pessimism, but there is always hope in the characters’ lives.
Here Stuart, the father of two small boys, has been joined by his mother in the prolonged absence of his wife. His mother is in her room, unpacking; in the kitchen he is musing about love, for as Austin said in his last post, we cannot receive love in passive ways.
It is easy to revert to how it was before, to the time when you knew instinctively that your mother loved you and that her love was always there like the sun, constant, always available, never for a moment critical or conditional.
Love. He never thought of love. Did other people? Did other people go about their daily business thinking about love; about the people they loved and the people who loved them?
… Did he love anybody at all? Did he love his mother, as he knew she loved him? … Did he love his boys? … Did he love Irene, his wife?
Stuart is actively loving by thinking about love and his loved ones.
Lord, let me think and pray for my family and friends by thinking of them in your presence day by day. Amen.
Edinburgh, Polygon, 2015, pp95-96.
I finally caught up with Sister Rose the other day: do you recall her sleep-out to help homeless people in Sussex? (see January 18th and subsequent posts). Well, I managed to walk out of St Thomas’s Church with her and have a short chat. Between herself and Sisters Clare and Anne, they raised nearly £3,000. I guess they could have paid that for a West End Hotel, but the money has gone to a much better cause.
Well done, sisters, and thank you and well done to all who supported them. If you did not manage to help the sisters back then, spare a thought for your local food bank, as parents have to find an extra meal per day to make up for the dinners their children would have eaten if they had been in school.
I was waiting at the seaside bus stop when a handsome young lad arrived, a smile on his face. He was dancing on the spot, though his headphones were off his ears and indeed switched off. He looked crazily happy, but not crazy!
One of his mates got on a couple of stops later, and so we heard just why the firstcomer was so happy. He’d just got accepted at university. ‘I can’t wait to get out of here, man, and get to university. This place is dead, there’s nothing to do.’
I got off at our local university, to walk home in the Spring sunshine across the green of the campus. Two students alighted in front of me; quite a few prefer to live in the peaceful resort rather than the city.
No doubt there will be young people coming to Canterbury from the town where my fellow-traveller is going, glad to get away from somewhere that has grown too small for them. Many come from London, glad to get off their patch and out from under their parents’ eye.
Perhaps that feeling was part of the initial attraction for the Disciples, determined to follow Jesus wherever he went. Not that James and John escaped from their mother!
And after Easter and Pentecost – James stayed in Jerusalem, but John ended up in Greece, Peter in Rome, Mark in Alexandria, Thomas in India, Joseph of Arimathea, so they say, in Somerset. Fired up they were – with a Pentecostal fire that was life-long.
I trust and pray the fire that made the seasider dance will burn within him all the days of his life.
JESUS IS BURIED
The boy who ran away from the guards is often said to have been St Mark, as he alone tells this story. Mark 14:51-52.
I know this man. Last night I left my linen cloth behind in their hands.
I thought they would arrest me too. I ran home, out of their power, naked, cold, but alive.
Now I see Jesus, out of their power, but naked, cold, dead.
Joseph wraps him in a linen cloth and lays him in a tomb.
Lord, even you needed someone to care for you, to dress you when you were small, and again now.
Help us to be grateful for every little service done to us, for what is done to us is done to you.
Lord in your mercy
Enjoy this clip. I did.
This is an invitation to look at each other and into our own hearts and behaviour- an activity well-suited to Lent.
My wife Janet tells the story of a child at the local playground, where she was with our grandson. This other pre-school boy was coming down the slide towards her, but no-one else was watching him.
His mother was on her phone.
The boy was looking for someone to make eye contact and acknowledge that he’d come down successfully. At least the kind stranger was there …
And this story connected with Pope Francis’s
In Paragraphs 128 and 129 he says:
The aesthetic experience of love is expressed in that “gaze” which contemplates other persons as ends in themselves, even if they are infirm, elderly or physically unattractive. A look of appreciation has enormous importance, and to begrudge it is usually hurtful. How many things do spouses and children sometimes do in order to be noticed! Much hurt and many problems result when we stop looking at one another. This lies behind the complaints and grievances we often hear in families: “My husband does not look at me; he acts as if I were invisible”. “Please look at me when I am talking to you!”. “My wife no longer looks at me, she only has eyes for our children”. “In my own home nobody cares about me; they do not even see me; it is as if I did not exist”. Love opens our eyes and enables us to see, beyond all else, the great worth of a human being.
129. The joy of this contemplative love needs to be cultivated. Since we were made for love, we know that there is no greater joy than that of sharing good things: “Give, take, and treat yourself well” (Sir 14:16). The most intense joys in life arise when we are able to elicit joy in others, as a foretaste of heaven.
Joy for this little one in being seen and also in a warm brotherly embrace.
‘We can’t stop what we can’t see, and once we see it we can’t unsee it.’
We return to USPG for this article by Ruth de Barros, who helps to co-ordinate a USPG funded social action programme in the Diocese of the Amazon. Human trafficking is not a pleasant topic of conversation but we need to become more aware of this insidious exploitation of our sisters and brothers. See posts on October 30 and 31 last year. This is an area where Churches work together around the world.
Human trafficking has been a concern of the Diocese of the Amazon for some time.
One woman was taken to Suriname with promises of a better life. But the traffickers brainwashed her, buying her expensive gifts in exchange for selling her body. In time she had two children – children born in these circumstances are often sold and used for child labour.
Happily, this woman’s uncle managed to find her children and bring them back to Brazil. Later, with help from the church and the police, the uncle also rescued his niece, together with a five-year-old his niece had rescued from a family enslaved in the gold mines.
A common ruse of traffickers is to trick parents into sending their sons to special football schools in the hope that their sons might become wealthy football stars. These families are often living in extreme poverty with low levels of education. They fall for the sweet talk of the criminals. They send their sons, then completely lose contact with them because they have been trafficked for sexual exploitation or child labour. The Anglican Church is raising awareness about trafficking and providing legal support to help.
O God, you have created us all in your own image
to reveal your glory, compassion and love.
Help us to see your face in every human being,
and to work together for the dignity and worth of all.
‘We can’t stop what we can’t see, and once we see it we can’t unsee it.’
The ability to relate is our gateway to meaning. Everything in creation evolves, grows and dies, in a process of birth-death-rebirth. Stars exploded, radiating out vast dust containing various gases – especially carbon. This is where our story begins; the stars are our ancestors. Carbon gets entwined with the wonder of photosynthesis as a source of nourishment. All those energies relating to tides, water, and vapour – even the menstrual cycle – owe their origin to the moon.
Long before procreation dreams existed, yearnings, longings and desires; and when creation was ready to welcome yet another creative gift – through the lure of erotic love, procreation happens. Parents are the biological channel through which this energy of the ages is transmitted into a new creature. A process reactivated every time a flower blooms, a seed dies and sperm and egg meet. What constitutes our identity is the sum of all these relationships.
But what about the soul? We tend to ask where the soul fits in this process. In a relational universe things don’t just fit – it is creative energy flowing in interweaving patterns. The soul is energy, holding together the movements of creative possibilities. Dualisms like body/soul, body/spirit, are not helpful. There is no distinction between body, soul and spirit; everything is pregnant with spirit-power. Bodies don’t need to have souls inserted to make them live [batteries included!]. It is not the soul that gives identity/character to the body. The erotic is the creative energy through which we connect within creation. What is the point of incarnation if the body cannot enjoy?
The Kingdom has to do not with heroes but with lovers. Ask what did the women at the tomb miss – and what did the disciples miss? One was relational, the other – we’ve lost a leader. Any wonder Jesus needed to ask: who do you say I am? Does Peter really answer this with – you are the Christ, Son of the living God? What problems it caused! Christ never called himself that; he didn’t like titles. Christ has nothing to do with power. What we are all about is quality relationships. Nothing makes sense in isolation, not even Christ. I am because we are!
Free will and intelligence are wonderful gifts, but become liabilities if we divorce them from imagination and intuition. We belong to the whole creation, not just one part of it. Breaking the planet into segments called nations is a purely human invention – belonging more to the divide and conquer vision of reality [as history has proved]. Creation is essentially undivided. This is why Jesus could not live up to the messianic expectations he met, which were very much in line with divide and conquer.
Another L’Arche posting, sent by James, Community Leader here in Canterbury, but originating from the community in Bologna, Italy.
Have you seen this 5 minute video by L’Arche International? It describes the changing nature of relationship between aging father and daughter (with Downs syndrome) beautifully – from L’Arche in Italy. Always brings a lump to my throat and describes really well both the humanity of the ‘cared for’ and the vulnerability and fragility of relationships. Well worth a quick watch with a cup of tea:
Community Leader – Director,
As you might expect, this link will also lead you to other short films about L’Arche around the world. I remember, when I worked in L’Arche Edmonton, meeting a professor who gave me a motto for working with people with disabilities: TRY ANOTHER WAY. L’Arche does just that, and it works.
You can find L’Arche Kent on Facebook and at http://www.larche.org.uk/Sites/kent/Pages/about-larche-kent