Behind each mystery a greater lies, The kind soul looks upon us through kind eyes, Yet both are mysteries; And once, beneath the silver of a star, There knelt three Travellers who came from far, And humbly laid great gifts upon the sod, Before a human Babe Who yet was God.
How should we know our God if He should come? Where seek Him if He made this earth His home? The angels knew, the prophets greatly guessed, He should be found among the lowliest; And lo, in stable straw He maketh nest.
Is Father Andrew writing about the hidden God or the revealed God? Both, surely. This is a time to remember the revelation that is Jesus, the kind soul that looks upon us with love, as human babes do to this day.
Here is the Holy Family, hidden away in Egypt, Joseph working away, Mary home-schooling Jesus, who is concentrating hard on the text he is learning. Joseph’s income enables this to happen. How many children today miss out on education because parents cannot afford the fees or other expenses?
Let us keep our eyes and ears open for news of the hidden God, who wants to be found, in the Scriptures, in nature and in other people. The next two posts look at God, hidden but revealed in people at the margins of society.
* The hidden God
Window at The Sacred Heart and Saint William, Saddleworth.
John the Baptist is naturally despondent in today’s Gospel reading. He’s in prison and unable to pursue his vocation of prophet, reminding people that being God’s chosen nation means living as if they really believed it, calling them to repent and offering them the dramatic sign of baptism – full immersion, not just a sprinkling! But now John needs reassurance and turns to the one man who can provide it.
Look what’s happening, replies Jesus. People are being helped and healed, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.
Today the Good News still has to be proclaimed to the poor, and we still need to hear the call to repentance, to take a new direction. Baptised we may have been, but we still need healing. Ponder this extract from an article about the Church in South Sudan, a Church scarred by decades of war and hunger. Fr Michael Heap MAfr goes on to challenge his British readers:
All of us need to be reminded from time to time
that our Baptism, our taking on the name “Christian”,
means much more than just living like everyone else,
apart from some prayers and Sunday Mass.
We have taken on a new direction in life.
We don’t go looking for suffering and rejection,
but if it comes because of our commitment to Jesus Christ,
we accept it without fear.
This is so in South Sudan.
It is so in UK.
It is true in each of our lives.
To live as baptised followers of Jesus
means changing our outlook on everything,
no matter how small.
A friend of L’Arche underlines the qualities of life shared in community rather than in a relationship of caring versus being cared for.
“I promise you, you have something….
“The depth of compassion for one another,
the depth of simplicity,
the depth of openness, love and welcome that exists in L'Arche:
no-one has it – no one.
“You are the living communities of peace.
You are the living example and role model
of what I believe the world is hungry for.”
“L’Arche has a simple message for our time:
focus on relationships.
“Welcome the poor and the rejected.
Create communities where relationships are the highest priority.
Create communities where each person’s gift is valued and celebrated.
Welcome the least
and as a result,
discover the best in all."
Tim Shriver, Disability Rights Activist and Chair of the Special
May oppressed people and those who oppress them set one another free. May those who are disabled and those who think they are not, help one another. May those who need someone to listen to them move the hearts of those who are too busy. May the homeless give joy to those who, albeit unwillingly, open their door to them. May the poor melt the hearts of the rich. May those who seek the truth give life to those who are satisfied because they have already found it. May the dying who do not want to die be comforted by those who find it very hard to live. May those who are not loved be authorised to open the hearts of those who are not successful in loving. May prisoners find true freedom and free others from fear. May those who sleep on the streets share their kindness with those who do not manage to understand them. May the hungry tear the veil from the eyes of those who do not hunger for justice. May those who live without hope purify the hearts of their brothers and sisters who are afraid of living. May the weak confuse the strong. May hatred be surmounted by compassion. May violence be neutralised by men and women of peace. May it surrender to those who are totally vulnerable, so that we may be healed. Therese Vanier
In L’Arche Kent Community Pilgrimage handbook 2022. Therese was one of the founders of L’Arche Kent in 1975.
We have come to the final element in the encounter between the rich young man and Jesus (Mark 10:17-22). It is significant that Jesus, despite – or because of – his love for the young man, does not make an exception for him, does not say, ‘Okay. I like you. I’ll make you a deal. You can keep all your wealth in reserve somewhere. Follow me anyway.’ No. Following Jesus and hoarding wealth are diametrically opposed. The poor have a claim on our material prosperity, according to Jesus (Mk 10: 21). A complete life-change must be undertaken by the wealthy that accommodates itself to others’ needs before a life lived with Jesus can be undertaken.
So: it looks pretty bad for the rich young man, whom I, too, have now begun to love. In losing Jesus he loses everything worth having, and his previously easy life suddenly becomes drenched in sorrow. Mark tells us that his face falls and he ‘goes away sad.’ I am certain that this is true.
But I still wonder: is it as bad as it looks for the rich young man? Is everything really over for him? I think of him reflecting on what he experienced with Jesus. He will not forget this encounter. He will remember it to the end of his life. And this may be his salvation.
Some final thoughts begin to take shape in my mind as I mentally say good-bye to a much-loved young man. I reflect that, ordinarily, the gospels show that some profound sorrow or disease – or both – is actually what opens people up to receive Jesus’ life, his love, his healing, his teaching about the Kingdom. For them, their woundedness, whether physical or moral or spiritual, is an unexpected blessing that enables them to gain the true treasure, which is Jesus.
But for others, the whole thing works in reverse–or it can. In the case of the rich young man, he comes to Jesus ‘nearly perfect,’ not conscious of woundedness or moral failings. When he leaves Jesus he feels much worse than he did when he arrived. He has been afflicted with a profound wound of sorrow. There are many, many untold stories in the gospels. We do not know exactly what happens to the rich young man after he ‘goes away sad.’ We know only that Jesus gives him the gift of a deep sorrow, the likes of which the young man had probably never known before in his life of wealth, comfort and cheer.
But wait. We know something else, too. Jesus gives him another gift to take away–and just as important: a moment of the most perfect human fulfilment. Jesus had been filled with love for him, and had looked at him with love. We are back to the idea with which we began our reflection: Mark’s insistence on Jesus’ look of love. This is of vital importance to Mark and it is even easier now to see why. We are talking about God-made-man looking at the rich young man with love. This look will be deeper and more profoundly moving than anything else he will ever experience. This combination of sorrow and love, it seems to me, is a combination that, given time, cannot fail to have affected the young man, to have opened him up, to have made him rethink his priorities, reconsider his actions. True, there is nothing in Jesus’ loving look to force the young man into acquiescence: he was free to refuse Jesus and he did. But, let’s note that he refused Jesus’ invitation right then. A door remains open to him; Jesus doesn’t stop loving people. There was still a chance to become a Christian later and to be healed of his sorrow and receive the joy of life in Christ. His life after this experience need not be a complete tragedy.
For those of us who may recognise ourselves in this story, who fear we may have lost the love of Christ forever along with our chance to be his follower, I think we can assume that Mark would hold that it doesn’t work like that. Jesus’ look of love lasts forever. The rich young man was eager, open and willing, but unprepared for the cost involved in following Jesus. He needed to grow up, to grow into Jesus’ love. The gift–the ‘package’–of sorrow and of love is powerful. The young man arrived at Jesus’ feet unprepared, he went away both loved and sorrowing. Through this gift, and over time, preparation for life with Christ was possible to him, as it is for anyone. Let’s hope he made that preparation and returned later, maybe after Jesus’ death, to join the growing community of Christians. Shall we join, too?