Tag Archives: poverty

19 July, What is Theology Saying? XIX: The Eucharist 6, A Call to Simplicity

winchester crucifixWhen Jesus began his ministry he didn’t expect it to lead to this – it wasn’t the goal of his mission. What he challenged us with was totally radical – the way of non-violence, of not needing someone to blame. His death reveals both the compassion of God and the reality of sin. Faced with Jesus, his contemporaries, chosen as hearers of the Word – panicked. The Gospels don’t present the leaders as particularly evil; they used arguments we are still using ourselves – prudence, common sense, self-defence… This is why sin is so appalling, showing how our normal and accepted ways of living are so corrupt that they crucify the innocent – legally.

Some would argue for a proper distinction to be made between religion, politics and social living. Jesus didn’t invite people to be poor, but to be poor in spirit – detached enough from whatever possessions to notice the poor man at the door. There is no love for a hungry person which leaves the person still hungry – it is pointless to show how much is being spent here and there – when the poor remain unfed, unclothed and unhoused. The very point of the Eucharist is to free people from the oppression of such evil. It is naïve to think we help poor people simply by becoming poor ourselves. Our call is to simplicity – simple means uncomplicated, and is not synonymous with easy.

We come to the Eucharist to be involved in ways of everyday living that will bring change. We have the gift of the Sacraments to help us do this. It is easy to miss the point of the Sacrament of the Eucharist by seeing it as a very special ceremony celebrated in but distinct from everyday living. There can be no intimacy with God without seeking the well-being of others – we are told the Second Commandment is like the first; which cautions about eating and drinking unworthily – 1Corinthians 11.27.

Grace is not a commodity God has to give to those who do what they are told to do. In fact, it is not something – it is relationship. It is an invitation to intimacy along with the gift of courage to say yes. Grace cannot be seen but gracefulness can, in heightened sensitivity to the needs of others. We can love our own family to the exclusion of others, likewise for one’s country – but such is not love since love knows nothing of exclusions. Love means openness – no matter who no matter where. See this expressed in the way the local folk in Germany turned out to welcome the migrants. This is Eucharist beyond the table. We relate to God as community, because it is only in community [no matter how small] that relationships happen. We have little experience of covenant relationship with God when so many human hungers go unnoticed.

AMcC

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18 July, What is Theology Saying? XVIII: The Eucharist 5: How can a person be food for another?

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What God says is always infallible – and that voice is the sound of the poor! We can and do proclaim: man does not live by bread alone – which is in fact only half true; it needs to be completed with man cannot live without bread. What Jesus brings as Bread of Life is how these two actually fit each other – so much so that we could equally say – what God has joined together let no one break apart…

How can a person be food for another? A strange question when that is how every one of us began life in the womb. Indeed the Bible uses this example to express how God sustains creation. The Mystics speak eloquently of Jesus’ relationship: how often I have longed to gather you children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings – Matthew 23.37. Equally do we sustain each other when rescuing from hopelessness and desperation; like the Apostles on Good Friday night. But now they have been enlivened in a new way – as if they too had been raised from the dead.

Passover acquired a new meaning with the Resurrection – the difference Jesus makes in himself becoming food is linked directly with his death. Our Eucharist of bread and wine must remind us that here we have the Paschal Lamb – a lamb becomes food only when it is killed, not when it dies! Its vocation is to become food for others – to be slaughtered and eaten. When Jesus spoke of becoming food many were scandalised; yet it is in his death that he becomes the bread of life; and it is through our being taken into his death [Baptism] that this food satisfies human hungers.

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Our shared meal is a token piece of food celebrated within an elaborate ritual. God blessed creation making it fruitful. He also blessed the 7th day for us to enjoy what is given. The flood symbolises our complete disregard for what God offers. God blesses Noah with this very same blessing, now with a more explicit covenant. Blessing is a creative act, bringing something new, and making the one blessed a source of blessing for others. It is not only God who blesses – in certain places parents bless their children before they go out. Parental blessing is calling from within another something not yet there, it is an expression of hope for sustaining new life.

AMcC

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12 July: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXX: His sermon to the birds.

The sermon that Saint Francis preached unto birds was:

“My little sisters, the birds, much bounden are ye unto God, your Creator, and alway in every place ought ye to praise Him, for that He hath given you liberty to fly about everywhere, and hath also given you double and triple raiment; moreover He preserved your seed in the ark of Noah, that your race might not perish out of the world; still more are ye beholden to Him for the element of the air which He hath appointed for you; beyond all this, ye sow not, neither do you reap; and God feedeth you, and giveth you the streams and fountains for your drink; the mountains and the valleys for your refuge and the high trees whereon to make your nests; and because ye know not how to spin or sew, God clotheth you, you and your children; wherefore your Creator loveth you much, seeing that He hath bestowed on you so many benefits ; and therefore, my little sisters, beware of the sin of ingratitude, and study always to give praises unto God.”

Whenas Saint Francis spake these words to them, those birds began all of them to open their beaks, and stretch their necks, and spread their wings, and reverently bend their heads down to the ground, and by their acts and by their songs to show that the holy Father gave them joy exceeding great. And Saint Francis rejoiced with them, and was glad, and marvelled much at so great a company of birds and their most beautiful diversity and their good heed and sweet friendliness, for the which cause he devoutly praised their Creator in them.

At the last, having ended the preaching. Saint Francis made over them the sign of the cross, and gave them leave to go away; and thereby all the birds with wondrous singing rose up in the air; and then, in the fashion of the cross that Saint Francis had made over them, divided themselves into four parts; and the one part flew toward the East, and the other towards the West, and the other towards the South, and the fourth towards the North, and each flight went on its way singing wondrous songs ; signifying thereby that even as Saint Francis, the standard-bearer of the Cross of Christ, had preached unto them, and made over them the sign of the cross, after the pattern of which they separated themselves unto the four parts of the world: even so the preaching of the Cross of Christ, renewed by Saint Francis, would be carried by him and the brothers throughout all the world; the which brothers, after the fashion of the birds, possessing nothing of their own in this world, commit their lives wholly unto the providence of God.

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6 June: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXIV: How Saint Clare ate with Saint Francis, 1. (Shared Table XVIII)

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We continue the theme of shared table in the next three posts from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis.

How Saint Clare ate with Saint Francis and the brothers, his companions, in St Mary of the Angels

WHENAS Saint Francis was at Assisi, oftentimes he visited Saint Clare and gave her holy admonishments. And she having exceeding great desire to once break bread with him, oft-times besought him thereto, but he was never willing to grant her this consolation ; wherefore his companions, beholding the desire of Saint Clare, said unto Saint Francis: “Father, it
doth appear to us that this severity accordeth n0t with heavenly charity : since thou givest not ear unt0 Sister Clare, a virgin so saintly, so beloved of God, in so slight a matter as breaking bread with thee, and above all bearing in mind that she through thy preaching abandoned the riches and pomps of the world. And of a truth, had she asked of thee a greater boon than this, thou oughtest so to do unto thy spiritual plant.”

Then replied Saint Francis: “Doth it seem good to you that I should grant her prayer?” Rejoined his companions: “Yea, father, fitting is it that thou grant her this boon and consolation.” Then spake Saint Francis : “Since it seems good to you, it seems so likewise unto me. But that she may be the more consoled, I will that this breaking of bread take place in Saint Mary of the Angels; for she has been so long shut up in St Damian that it will rejoice her to see again the house of Saint Mary, where her hair was shorn away and she became the bride of Jesu Christ; and there let us eat together in the name of God.”

I like the way Francis listened to his brothers and considering their advice, followed it. In Francis and Clare’s time, the sisters were all enclosed in their convents, unlike the Franciscan Missionary Sisters of Littlehampton in this photo. WT.

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4 May: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XXI; the immeasurable treasure of most holy poverty.

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We continue from yesterday’s episode: Saint Francis abandons France for Rome. These Franciscans were in Kent, on pilgrimage to Canterbury.

Saint Francis said : My comrade, let us go to Saint Peter and Saint Paul and pray them to teach us and help us to possess the immeasurable treasure of most holy poverty ; for it is a treasure so high excelling and so divine that we be not worthy to lay it up in our vile vessels; since this is that celestial virtue whereby all earthly things and fleeting are trodden under foot, and whereby all hindrances are lifted from the soul, so that freely she may join herself to God eternal. And this is the virtue that makes the soul, still tied to earth, hold converse with the angels in heaven, and this it is that hung with Christ upon the cross, with Christ was buried, with Christ rose up again, with Christ ascended into heaven; the which also in this life grants to the souls that love it an easier flight to heaven ; in that it guards the arms of true humility and love. Wherefore let us pray the most holy apostles of Christ, the which were perfect lovers of this gospel pearl, that they may beg for us this grace from our Lord Jesu Christ, that of His most holy mercy He may make us worthy to become true lovers, followers, and humble disciples, of the most precious, most lovable, and gospel poverty.” 

With such converse they so fared until they came unto Rome, and went into the church of Saint Peter; and Saint Francis set himself to pray in one corner of the church, and Brother Masseo in another; and as he continued a long time in prayer with much weeping and devotion, there appeared unto Saint Francis the most holy apostles Peter and Paul in great splendour, and said “Because thou hast asked and desired to observe that which Christ and His holy apostles observed, the Lord Jesu Christ hath sent us unto thee to announce that thy prayer is heard, and that God has granted to thee and to thy followers in uttermost perfection the treasure of most holy poverty. And further we tell thee that whoso after thy pattern shall perfectly follow this desire, he is assured of the blessedness of life eternal: and blessed shalt thou and all thy followers be ”; and with these words they were away, leaving Saint Francis filled with consolation. And rising from prayer, he returned to his companion and asked him if God had revealed naught unto him; and he answered, “Naught.” Then Saint Francis told him how the holy apostles had appeared to him, and what they had revealed. Whereat they both being filled with joy resolved to return unto the valley of Spoleto, and leave their journeying into France.

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3 May: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XX; aflame with love of poverty.

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The city of Gap in what are now the French Alps is proud of this little bridge over the Torrent called the Bonne. Saint Francis walked across it on his way to France. And no doubt on the way back, after today’s episode.

Saint Francis and Brother Masseo drawing nigh unto a church, Saint Francis said to his companion: “ Let us go into the church to pray.” And Saint Francis gat him behind the altar and gave himself to prayer: and in that same prayer he received from the divine visitation fervour so exceeding great, the which inflamed his soul so mightily with the love of holy poverty that, by the colour of his face and the unwonted opening of his lips, it seemed as though he breathed forth flames of love.

And coming thus enkindled to his companion, he bespake him thus: “Ah! Ah! Ah! Brother Masseo, give thyself to me ”; and thus spake he three times; and at the third time Saint Francis with his breath lifted Brother Masseo up into the air, and threw him a great spear’s length in front of him; whereby exceeding great amazement took hold on Brother Masseo. Afterwards he recounted to his companions how that, when as he was uplifted and hurled along by the breath that Saint Francis breathed on him, he tasted such sweetness in his soul, and consolation of the Holy Spirit, that in all his life he ne’er had felt the like.

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27 April: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XVIII: the Riches of Poverty 1.

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THE wonderful servant and follower of Christ, to wit Saint Francis, to the end that he might in all things conform himself perfectly unto Christ, who, as the Gospel saith, sent his disciples forth by two and two unto all the cities and places where He was himself purposing to go; seeing that after the pattern of Christ he had gathered together twelve companions, sent them forth by two and two to preach throughout the world.

And to give them an ensample of true obedience, he was himself the first to go, after the pattern of Christ who began to do before he taught. Wherefore having allotted to his companions the other parts of the world, he with Brother Masseo as his companion took the road that led to the land of France.

And coming one day to a town sore hungered, they went, according to the rule, begging their bread for the love of God; and Saint F rancis went by one street, and Brother Masseo by another. But because Saint Francis was mean to look upon and small of stature, and was deemed thereby a vile beggar by whoso knew him not, he got by his begging naught save a few mouthfuls and scraps of dry bread: but to Brother Masseo, in that he was tall and fair of form, were given good pieces, large and in plenty, and of fresh bread. When that they had done their begging, they met together to eat in a place without the city, where was a fair fountain and, hard by, a fine, broad stone ; upon the which each set the alms that he had begged.

And Saint Francis, seeing that Brother Masseo’s pieces of bread were more and finer and larger than his own, rejoiced with great joy, and said: “ O Brother Masseo, we are not worthy of such vast treasure ”: and when he repeated many times these self-same words, Brother Masseo made answer:
« Father, how can one speak of treasure where is such poverty and lack of all things whereof there is need ? Here is nor cloth, nor knife, nor plate, nor porringer, nor house, nor table, nor man-servant, nor maid-servant.”

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January 26: Reflections from the Little Flowers of Saint Francis. IV.

Francois.Anne. beaupre.1Apologies that we miscalculated where Church Unity Week clashed with The Little Flowers, so that this post got separated; but we conclude this chapter concerning Brother Bernard, Francis’s first follower. More flowers to follow next month.

Of Brother Bernard of Quintavalle, 4.

A certain man whose name was Silvester seeing that Saint Francis gave and let give so much money to the poor, being moved by greed, said to Saint Francis: “Thou hast not paid me in full for the stones thou didst buy of me for to rebuild the church; therefore pay me now that thou hast money.” Therewith Saint Francis, marvelling at his greed and willing not to stir up
strife with him, as a true follower of the holy Gospel, put his hands into the bosom of Bernard; and filled his hands with money, which he put into the bosom of Silvester, saying that if he wished for more, more would he give him.

Silvester being content with these, forthwith was away and gat him to his house: but in the evening bethinking him of what he had done throughout the day, and chiding himself for his
greed, pondering on the fervour of Bernard and the sanctity of Saint Francis, he had from God, on the night following and two other nights, a vision on this wise, that from the mouth of Saint Francis sprang a cross of gold, of which the top reached unto heaven, and the arms
stretched from the East even unto the West. By reason of this vision, he gave away all that he had for the love of God, and became a brother minor, and lived in the Order in such sanctity and grace that he spake with God, as doth one friend with another, whereof Saint Francis ofttimes was witness.

Bernard in like manner had such grace of God that oftentimes in contemplation was he caught up to God: and Saint Francis said of him, that he was worthy of all reverence, and that it was he that had founded this Order; inasmuch as he was the first to leave the world, keeping back naught for himself, but giving all unto the poor of Christ, and, when he took on him the Gospel poverty, offering himself naked in the arms of the Crucified;

Bless we His name,

world without end.

Amen.

Another picture from Christina Chase’s pilgrimage to Ste Anne de Beaupre.

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January 20: WEEK OF PRAYER FOR CHRISTIAN UNITY: WELCOMING THE STRANGER.

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The memory of a liberated people, that they were once enslaved, should compel us to welcome the stranger in our midst. The experience of Biblical Israel resonates with the experiences of the peoples of the Caribbean region, the majority of whom were once slaves. We remember how God restores the dignity of God’s people and the churches of the region play an important role in reminding their society of the duty to welcome refugees and displaced persons.
Leviticus 19.33-34 You shall love the alien as yourself

Psalm 146 The Lord watches over the strangers

Hebrews 13.1-3 Some have entertained angels without knowing it

Matthew 25.31-46 I was a stranger and you welcomed me
REFLECTION We are good because we are loved, not loved because we are good. If it was up to each one of us to earn it, we might not be loved very much. Too much goat and not enough sheep. And yet loved we are, since God is in all things, even the bits we think are ugly and unmentionable. We are loved, but God wants us to give some love back, giving and receiving in a mutual relationship. Love makes us better holds us together reaching out to the other. Being in relationship with God means being with other people, doing some good. Looking after the creation and not seeing everything as being there for our enjoyment. It means being fair and not exploiting others. It means giving and not taking. It means being alongside not overpowering others. It even means welcoming and respecting the stranger in our midst since it may be the Christ unannounced.
QUESTIONS How have you experienced being a stranger? Have you visited another church (perhaps whilst on holiday)? How were you welcomed? How did you feel? How might being truly hospitable be challenging? What might hold us back from being genuinely hospitable?
PRAYER Barrier-breaking God, You embrace all cultures and lands, But keep a special place in your heart For the stranger, the widow and the orphan. Grant us the gift of your Spirit That we may become as You are, Welcoming all as brothers and sisters, Your cherished children, Citizens together in Christ’s kingdom of justice and peace. Amen
GO AND DO (see http://www.ctbi.org.uk/goanddo) The Caribbean Council of Churches has been involved in advocacy to challenge those nations that are restricting or stripping Haitians of citizenship rights.
Visit Go and Do to read Milciades story about being denied his rights in the Dominican Republic.
Visit Go and Do to find inspiration and encouragement to keep helping those who have been forced from their homes across the world.

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18 January: The Week of Prayer for Church Unity: WELCOME!

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Tree of Life

We invite you to share with us and all the Churches Together in Britain and Ireland the forthcoming week of Prayer for Unity. A Word from the General Secretary today; an introduction to this year’s theme tomorrow, then reflections, readings, prayers for each day of the Octave, or eight day week.

Praying for the unity of the Church involves a recognition not only of the brokenness of Christian relationships but also how injustice in the world at large rends asunder Christian communities and impedes our participation in God’s mission. History too plays a part, casting a shadow over how we live our lives together in community. All of these issues emerge from the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity materials for 2018.

The churches of the Caribbean region describe to us their own context, how the hand of God was active in ending slavery, and how God’s mission in the world is a call to us all to unite together in ending injustice, that which casts a shadow from the past and current forms of injustice such as poverty, trafficking and discrimination. This particular Caribbean experience is a challenge to us in our context to reflect more deeply on the injustices in our own nations in Britain and Ireland which create the divisions that impede our participation in God’s mission, with the call to actively work to end all division.

Within these resources you will find not only the worship service derived from the International material that is resourced by the Caribbean churches, but also additional material written by the CTBI Writers Group. I hope and pray that you will find these materials inspiring as you seek to participate in the life that sets us free to be one in God.

Bob Fyffe,

General Secretary, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland

 

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