Tag Archives: poverty

12 March. Jesus and Zacchaeus VI: Healing Friendship Offered to All

stmaurice.pilgrims

But wait, what’s going on? There is some restlessness in the crowd now. The people seem dismayed. The ones nearest Jesus’ group have sent the perplexing message around: Jesus has gone to stay at a sinner’s house! How shocking! It can’t be true! Now the crowd is straining to see what is happening. Zacchaeus is too short to be seen clearly, but it’s clear enough that Jesus is smiling, and some of his closest companions are looking happy. One is even wiping his eyes. They see them preparing to leave together, and yes, they see that Zacchaeus is the centre of attention. Naturally. But look – yes, Zacchaeus is actually being embraced by some of Jesus’ friends. They seem to be speaking to Zacchaeus with expressions of relief and gratitude. Relief? Gratitude?? Because of Zacchaeus?? And Jesus and his friends are all heading in the direction of Zacchaeus’s house. The atmosphere in the crowd quickly becomes more hostile, and angry people are beginning to surround Jesus and his newly enlarged group. They don’t understand. That villainous chief tax collector, whom they all despised and had relegated to the outermost edges of their lives, is suddenly in the inner circle of this holy man’s friends. What is this?

But now, Zacchaeus is ready. He hears the bewildered comments and knows that it is up to him to do something, to act, to explain. Jesus is now his friend, and he is Jesus’ friend, and Zacchaeus has already decided on the changes he will make in his life. He declares his promise to Jesus with conviction – and it feels so wonderful, so free to declaim the words, Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ The bystanders have fallen silent.

Zacchaeus pauses, panting a bit. He knows Jesus understands the full import of his declaration: it means that now I am a new man. I have a new identity; I am the friend of Jesus, because Jesus has befriended me. Jesus did this completely out of the blue, not as a reward for any good deeds of mine for I had no good deeds. He offered his friendship because he is friendship, he is love. Jesus saw through my facade, my fake bravado, saw beyond the unscrupulous tax collector, the cheat, the bully – he saw through all that, he saw the hurt, frightened child. And now he sees my human potential and his friendship has healed me. Jesus confirms this in his words:

Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham, for the Son of man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’

These words of Jesus are directed to Zacchaeus, primarily, but they are also words for the angry bystanders. They, too, need healing from their wound of self-righteousness, from their various facades of self-sufficiency and bravado. Jesus is here re-teaching the crowd the message that he repeats so often during his minstry: he has not come for those who suppose themselves to be righteous, capable and therefore deserving of God’s blessings. He has come for the lost, the rejected; he has come for the wounded – physically and emotionally. That refers to Zacchaeus, and Zacchaeus knows it. That also refers to the crowd standing around Jesus in Jericho – and they are a bit slower to grasp the point.

If we are honest, we know that this refers to us, also. We need to be needed by Jesus. And we are. Jesus longs to be in a relationship of deepest friendship with us. His relationship with Zacchaeus can give hope to all who realize that they are precisely in Zacchaeus’s position.

SJC

(MAfr African Pilgrimage, St Maurice)
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7 March. Zacchaeus and Jesus – A Different Kind of Healing, I: Introduction.

Palm Sunday Sussundenga, Mozambique 2015 01

At 1m76, 6ft3.5, I am not vertically challenged as Zaccheus was, and my tree-climbing days are less frequent than once they were. But we can all sympathise with Zacchaeus in Luke’s Gospel. Jesus does not add to his physical stature, but instead provides an opportunity for Zacchaeus to grow in heart and mind. This week’s posts are from our friend, Sister Johanna Caton of Minster Abbey in Thanet, Kent. This reading opens the season of Lent in the Eastern Church, so this week we bow to our Orthodox sisters and brothers as we reflect on Zacchaeus’s transformation.

The New Testament story of Zacchaeus has always been a delight to me. It is told only by Luke (19:1-11), and is a story that I love to reread. And, although I had done so many times, I recently began to find new depths in Zacchaeus’s character, and new drama in his story. That is the way lectio divina tends to work. Lectio divina is an ancient Latin term meaning sacred reading, and refers to the daily practice of a slow and prayerful reading of the bible. I have found that in this daily form of prayer, a passage in scripture that I think I understand well will one day suddenly open up further, and new aspects of the text will reveal themselves.

In the story of Zacchaeus, we find a story of healing. But we are not dealing here with the healing of leprosy, blindness, paralysis or any of the other physical disabilities that are usually brought to Jesus for a cure. Zacchaeus is healed on a different level. We know well that the body isn’t the only thing that needs healing. Our spirit, our emotions, the personal history with which we are burdened all need to be healed by the Lord. Oh, we try to cover up these wounds by deploying whatever coping mechanisms we can find in our attempt to survive in an unkind world. Sometimes we have learned to cover up so effectively that we convince even ourselves that these wounds are not there. This, no doubt, is what Zacchaeus had to do, too, and St Luke more than hints at this in his telling of Zacchaeus’s story. I would like to try to look at the encounter between Jesus and Zacchaeus from this perspective over the next few days in a series of posts.

First, I’d like to review the passage. This translation is from the New Jerusalem Bible.

Jesus entered Jericho and was going through the town and suddenly a man whose name was Zacchaeus made his appearance; he was one of the senior tax collectors and a wealthy man. He kept trying to see which Jesus was, but he was too short and could not see him for the crowd; so he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree to catch a glimpse of Jesus who was to pass that way. When Jesus reached the spot he looked up and spoke to him, ‘Zacchaeus, come down. Hurry, because I am to stay at your house today.’ And he hurried down and welcomed him joyfully. They all complained when they saw what was happening. ‘He has gone to stay at a sinner’s house,’ they said. But Zacchaeus stood his ground and said to the Lord, ‘Look, sir, I am going to give half my property to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody I will pay him back four times the amount.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Today salvation has come to this house, because this man too is a son of Abraham, for the Son of man has come to seek out and save what was lost.’

Until a few weeks ago, I saw Zacchaeus as a loveable and slightly comical character. In my mind, he was an older man, short and maybe a bit pudgy – a rich man with a rich man’s girth – a bit of a joker, an extrovert playing to the gallery. But now, I have revised my whole picture of him. We will begin to explore this further tomorrow.

SJC

Zacchaeus would have been unable to see past this crowd. (MAfr)

 

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22 February. What is Theology Saying? XLVIII: The need for a new world.

light in dark rainy window

Jesus had said his kingdom was not of this world, he could not establish the kingdom using any kind of force. For the next several centuries there was little chance of Christians being involved in decision-making – they were being constantly persecuted. Then from being objects of persecution they became part of the establishment in Eastern Roman Empire, with the Decree of Constantine [Edict of Milan 313] – Now came the tendency to believe the empire was the kingdom of God. They saw their role as to obey Christian princes; problems only arose when there were clashes between Popes and Emperors.

The Church in Gaudium et Spes, Vatican II’s Pastoral Constitution on The Church in the Modern World, recognised the findings of Teilhard de Chardin but it soon became evident that this document did not solve all the issues – for instance it does not touch on the value of human work in the world – is technology helping or just keeping us busy? What the Bible tells us and tradition has handed on is in symbolic form, and needs interpretation. We do not know the future in the way we know the past. All that we really know is the demand the future makes on the present. We learn not by looking, but by doing, we are not waiting for the next world to come, but we do feel the need for a new world.

For the Bible the world is not just a place but history itself – it is history always moving towards fulfilment of God’s promises. We must be constantly on the move from a comfortable status quo to a universal better future for everyone – no exclusions. It is not action in the world that must go, but our individual and privileged stake in the present: the privilege of being white where black people have to do menial tasks, the fostering of economic development with larger economies crushing the smaller, the exclusion of the poor from places reserved for the privileged – these are the evils in the world that must pass away.

AMcC

We will hear more from Austin in a few weeks’ time. WT.

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16 February. Little Flowers of Saint Francis XLVIII: Brother Ruffino 5, the beautiful sermon.

chris-preaching

The folk of Assisi beholding Saint Francis in the self-same guise as Brother Ruffino, made mock of him, deeming that he and Brother Ruffino had grown mad through overmuch penance.

Saint Francis entered into the church where Brother Ruffino was preaching these words “Dearly beloved, flee from the world and put away sin; render to others their due, if ye would escape from hell; follow the commandments of God, in loving God and your neighbour, if ye would go to heaven; do penance, if ye would possess the kingdom of heaven.”

Then Saint Francis went up into the pulpit, and began to preach so marvellously of the contempt of the world, of holy penitence, of voluntary poverty, and of the desire of the kingdom of heaven, and of the nakedness and shame of the passion of our Lord Jesu Christ, that all they that heard the preaching, men and women in great multitude, began to weep most bitterly with devout and contrite hearts; and not there alone, but in all Assisi was there that day such weeping for the passion of Christ, that never had there been the like.

And the people being thuswise edified and comforted by this act of Saint Francis and Brother Ruffino, Saint Francis re-clad Brother Ruffino and himself and so re-clad, they returned to the House of Portiuncula, praising and glorifying God, that had given them grace to overcome themselves, by the contempt of themselves, and to edify the little sheep of Christ by good example, and to show how greatly the world is to be despised. And on that day so much did the devotion of the people towards them increase, that he deemed himself blessed whoso could touch the hem of their garment.

Let’s pray that Brother Chris’s work in Zimbabwe is prospering. Lord hear us.

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14 February, Mass in the City of Light, February 1946

candle

A reminder that Christ is among us at the Eucharist, whether celebrated in splendour or in dirt and poverty – and in the case of Archbishop Spellman’s visit to Notre Dame de Paris, in dirty, poverty stricken splendour. Spellman was en route to Rome, to become a Cardinal,

The post-war visit to the French capital by and large was anything but gay. For Mass in the great Cathedral of Notre Dame, each priest was still assigned one little piece of candle stuck in a bottle, which was carried from the sacristy by the server and carefully returned. Even when His Eminence gave Solemn Benediction at the main altar, there were only two candles burning. The streets were dark too, the streets of the City of Light, dark and dirty. The hotels were cold. The shops were shabby. Only the famous Flea Market, which seemed to be very much bigger than ever, was doing a thriving business.

So, Let your light shine! One candle in a neglected, dirty cathedral was a sign of hope, a sign of the Lord’s presence among his people. And even that one candle was an act of defiance to the darkness, the darkness will never overcome!

From ‘The Cardinal Spellman Story’ by Robert L Gannon, London, Robert Hale, 19963, p288. 

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29 January: From the Franciscans of Zimbabwe, I.

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We haven’t heard much from Brother Chris Dyczek for a while. After leaving the Franciscan International Study Centre, he’s been busy studying and working in Oxford, but is now off to teach in Zimbabwe. The friars have had a custody there for sixty years; this picture shows them all (bar Brother Chris!) in a boat, reminiscent of the one on the L’Arche emblem.

Chris hopes to send us some reflections from Zimbabwe, but in the meantime he has sent us their house journal from which we’ll share a few extracts.

This passage sets out their philosophy and vision.

The Franciscan Friars of the Custody of The Good Shepherd- Zimbabwe are called by Christ, in the footsteps of St. Francis. We are a Missionary and Contemplative Fraternity, striving towards a Self-Sustaining life, in Minority and Simplicity, in continual Formation, and being adaptive to the needs of our times.

How wonderful and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony! (Psalm 133:1)

The challenge for anyone wanting to follow Francis set out very clearly! Let us pray for the grace of minority (or an attitude of deep humility and brother- or sisterhood), and simplicity, wherever we are called to meet the needs of our times.

 

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22 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity Day 5: Good news to the poor.

scaales

To bring good news to the poor (Luke 4:18)

  • Amos 8:4-8

  • Luke 4:16-21

Starting point

The prophet Amos criticized traders who practiced deceit and exploited the poor. God, who sides with the victims of injustice, will not forget such wrongdoing. In a globalized world, such marginalization, exploitation and injustice is rampant. The gap between rich and poor is becoming wider. Economic demands become the deciding factor in our relationships and the demands of justice are more and more pushed to the side-lines. Christians are called to challenge the prevailing attitudes and to work for justice.

Reflection

I’ll believe it when I see it!

I’ve heard it all before!

‘Things can only get better’

‘Audacity of hope’

Promises of something new!

Good news?

They are just bus-slogans when the poor remain poor,

the vulnerable abused and no-one speaks out!

Do you think I can jump up and dance

when my hands and feet are made heavy with the anger from broken promises?

And so I stare at you, because to stare is all I can do.

But

if ‘good news’ means

rising up against power,

overturning the tables down the road in the big city,

walking, talking and eating with people like us,

going the whole way with us,

not departing when things get too tough,

even when the suffering becomes too great to endure,

this would truly be something new.

It would be good news fulfilled.

Then I could be tempted to trust one more time.

Prayer

God, the bringer of good news,

forgive our lust for power

and free us from the temptation to oppress others.

Instil in us the determination

to see your good news made real in us and those around us,

as we share in the mission of your Son Jesus

to fulfil your promise of freedom from poverty and oppression.

We pray in his name. Amen.

Questions

  • Where do you see deceit and false promises?

  • Who are the poor and the powerful in your community?

  • What can we do to bring the good news of the gospel to both the powerful and the poor?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

The World Economic Forum meets from 22nd – 25th January 2019 in Davos, coinciding with the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This moment highlights the extreme disunity and inequality across the world. 42 people own the same wealth as the poorest 50 percent (Oxfam 2018).

Take time this week to work together for a world where there is unity not just between Christians but where we as human beings can flourish together. Renew your commitment to trade that is fair and ethical and to continue to campaign for taxes to be paid. Visit Go and Do for more information.

(Unlike those Amos condemned, these Victorian scales are accurate and still in use today.) MMB.

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21 January: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Day 4: Be content with what you have

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Be content with what you have (Hebrews 13:5)

  • Hebrews 13:1-5

  • Matthew 6:25-34

Starting point

God’s goodness has provided ample food and fresh water to sustain life for all and yet many people lack these necessities. Human greed frequently leads to corruption, injustice, poverty and hunger. Jesus teaches us not to be concerned about accumulating more material things than we need. We should, rather, be concerned with proclaiming the Kingdom of equity and announcing God’s reign of justice. Christians are called to live lives which enable the waters of justice to flow.

Reflection

I scrape together

the crumbs of my excess,

perhaps enough to feed the sparrows?

I soak up

the spilling over of my cup,

perhaps enough to drown my sorrows?

I ask myself,

when is enough

ever going to be enough?

You ask me

if I can spare any change

and I worry

that I do not have enough

enough good reason

enough good will

enough compassion

enough empathy

enough humanity

enough energy

enough desire

enough courage

to make the change that is sorely needed.

Prayer

God of the seasons,

whether in bountiful harvest,

or when there is no yield for what we have sown;

let us be content,

that your grace is sufficient.

Help us to have the generosity of spirit,

to share what we have

with those who have not.

May we all be blessed

with love, grace, compassion and mercy,

as we seek to walk humbly

and do justly,

for your name’s sake. Amen.

Questions

  • Share a story of a time when you did not have enough – how did you feel?

  • What do you find the most difficult thing to share?

  • What do you find the most difficult thing to receive?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

Pay attention to the advertising messages you receive, on buses, billboards, TV, newspapers, online. Reflect on the messages that we are absorbing everyday about what we supposedly need.

Reflect on your identity as a consumer and consider the steps we can take as individuals and as a community of churches to live simply so others can simply live?

Plan a Lent journey between the churches in your area that involves a fast from buying and how we might count and share our blessings instead. Visit Go and do to find out more.

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20 January, Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, Day 3: The Lord is gracious and merciful to all.

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The Lord is gracious and merciful to all (Psalm 145:8)

  • Psalm 145:8-13

  • Matthew 1:1-17

Starting point

Christians in Indonesia live within a context of great diversity. Indonesia is a nation of over 17000 islands and 1340 ethnic groups. The churches are often separated along ethnic lines, and some may wound the unity of the Church by regarding themselves as sole guardians of the truth. There are those who are excluded and pushed to the margins. The scripture passages for today remind us that the love of God transcends the boundaries of ethnicity, culture, race, and religion. God is broken with those who are broken. God stands outside with those who are excluded. God includes everyone in the plan of salvation and none are left out.

Reflection

Born

Endangered

Love – withheld misdirected misused hidden from me

Broken

Untended

Self – withheld misdirected misused hidden from me

Rejected

Cast away

Place – withheld misdirected misused hidden from me

Found

Harboured

Love – offered whole healthy including me?

Broken

Tended

Self – offered whole healthy including me

Accepted

Welcomed

Place – offered whole healthy including me

Pain

Acknowledged

Love – chosen given accepted returned

Healing

Started

Self – chosen given accepted returned

Wholeness

Sometimes

Place – chosen given accepted returned

God

born

broken

rejected

Life – restored remade including me

Prayer

God of all humanity

your Son was born into a line of men and women,

ordinary and extraordinary.

Some of them were remembered for their great deeds,

others more for their sins.

Give us an open heart to share your unbounded love,

and to embrace all who experience discrimination.

Help us to grow in love beyond prejudice and injustice.

Grant us the grace to respect the uniqueness of each person,

so that in our diversity we may experience unity.

This prayer we make in your holy name. Amen

Questions

  • Where do you see God’s grace and mercy in action?

  • Who are those on the margins of your communities?

  • What can you/we do to engage those who feel beyond God’s reach?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

God stands with those who are most marginalized. Consider how your churches might join with those who are most marginalized in our societies. Contact local organizations working to support destitute asylum seekers and find out how you can help best. Visit Go and Do to find out more.

Take action to ensure those who are displaced but excluded from the UN resolutions on rights of refugees are included and given the support they need. Visit Go and Do to find out more.

Lampedusa Cross

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January 18: Week of Prayer for Christian Unity: 1 Let justice roll down like waters.

river.monnow.

Let justice roll down like waters (Amos 5:24)

  • Amos 5:22-25

  • Luke 11:37-44

Starting point

Christians in Indonesia recognize that in their land there are people who passionately try to practise their faith, but who oppress those of other beliefs. In the prophecy of Amos, God rejects the worship of those who neglect justice. In the Gospel of Luke, Jesus reminds us that the outward sign of true worship of God is acting justly. Christians can sometimes be very committed to prayer and worship, but less concerned for the poor and the marginalized. When, as Christians, we work together on justice issues we grow closer to one another and to God.

Reflection

At the table

we sit,

empty plates, but for a few crumbs.

Everyone’s had their fill again,

satiated,

at least for now.

Turning on the taps

we fill our bowls,

in the hope that the stains will disappear.

The water cascades

over cup

and plate,

cleansing it

of any sign of human contact,

as if there had never been a meal.

In our polite conversation

and edgy discourse,

we fool ourselves

into thinking we are making a difference.

We faithfully gather,

but are we just acting,

waiting,

for the others to speak up

as we wash our hands?

Prayer

God of all,

you have shown us the path of justice.

You are the father of the orphan.

You are the constant companion of the widow.

You are the friend of the stranger.

In each of these,

may we meet you

and recognize the wind of your Spirit,

moving us toward the need for justice.

In all that we do,

may we know your grace and mercy

and offer healing and justice in your name.

Questions

  • How would you describe justice?

  • Where have you recognized justice in action?

  • Can we have unity without justice?

Go and Do

(see www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo)

‘Charity is no substitute for justice withheld’.

Take time to reflect and remember campaign successes of the recent and distant past, e.g. the abolition of transatlantic slavery and the end of apartheid in South Africa. Visit Go and Do to read about recent successes in the campaign for tax justice.

Celebrate the successes and get together to discuss what action your community of churches could take to challenge injustice that is happening now. Visit Go and Do for some creative activism ideas.

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