Isaiah the prophet challenges us today in the first reading to ‘have a care for justice and keep away from evil’.
Listening to what is happening in world today, it seems there is no justice anywhere and everywhere is full of different kinds of evil. There are so many wars, hunger, illnesses, killings, displacement etc being faced by many people. Every created thing seeks for justice and fairness. I often wonder where God is in all this. When I reflect on various areas in which injustices are being perpetuated in our world, I weep and feel powerless.
When I consider further, I tell myself I can make a difference in whatever little way is possible for me. I can speak out for those who are unjustly mistreated. I can write to MPs supporting proposals that promote fair treatment for all. I can stand up for the truth no matter what it will cost me. I can also pray for a change of heart for those who no longer seek for God’s justice but rather for punishment without mercy. If I see injustice around me, I can try to be, by following Jesus’ example, a light that shines for all to see.
I pray that in my everyday activities, I will do my best to detach myself from anything that does not promote goodness. I ask God to help me make sure that people and other creatures are treated with fairness, and never trample on them because I have the power and resources to do so.
Come Lord Jesus, Sun of Justice!
This Wakefield scene shows us a provocative contrast between two ways of imagining the inner life of any person’s soul. Sometimes we feel churned up, or even seething. At other times, a lovely calm clarity runs through our inner world, and reveals our potential for containing tranquillity. On this footing we can show others how the world might appear in that condition.
Perhaps we more often have an opportunity to move from the turbulent to the calm than we realise. Franciscan poet Jacopone da Todi regarded our awareness of these formative moments as the key to a faith-based personality.
“We were a mighty host, encamped on the heights,
But the waters of the flood have risen and covered us,
And taken from us the power to pray,
Which alone could keep us afloat and heal our wounds.” (Laud 30).
The power to pray consists to a remarkable degree in the ability to welcome calm into our lives, to become attuned to the Spirit who provides calm, and to begin to acknowledge those areas of wounded memory within us where healing is needed.
Jacopone had a troubled life, beginning with the sudden death of his young wife in an accident. But God was speaking to others very often through his poetry, bringing hope and sincerity where before there had often been only pomposity, cravings for luxury, and abuses of power. We could try to nurture the moments of poetic calm in the course of a week, to let healing begin.
Jesus was on trial. People were watching him to see what kind of person he was. The irony is, of course, that he was also watching them. They were concerned about who occupied the coveted place of honour. The place of honour is literally, the first couch, at the highest kind of formal meal, a reclining feast. We are watching a social drama. The dining room was a theatre. The closer to your host, the more important you were. Place at dinner showed position in society.
We have seen enough humiliated politicians being carted off to prison whilst all their former friends who have eaten their bread, drunk their wine, done their favours and benefited from their patronage, go to ground and refuse to know them anymore. The highest place can be quickly changed for the lowest place and there is no shortage of gloating onlookers happy to say ‘I always knew this would happen’.
The dining room is a microcosm of the world, reflecting the accepted order in it. For the host the occasion was a mirror in which he could see his own power and privilege reflected. He was at the centre, this artificial world turned on the host who called it into being. Wanting recognition and the trappings of fame is actually a failure in proper self-love and self-worth. The banqueters look at the gathering in order to see themselves reflected in the esteem and acceptance of the others. They are looking for their own true image, but the true image of humanity is there with them. Here is what is to be truly human: Jesus. They are watching him but they cannot see him, because they are too taken up with what people will think.
Our cosy routines are put in danger, but we convince ourselves that right will be on our side because we are mighty and might generally proves itself right. Whether with flag in hand on horseback, or with horsepower under the bonnet, the agreed standards of civic protection will favour us, God or no God. Here is Godfrey de Bouillon again.
We have an army to keep unwelcome passions of others supervised and checked, we imagine, as if there were no rival claims to protection at work in other cultures of the world.
But what are the unexamined passions of consumer indulgence which provide our confidence? Are they the moderated passions of the best adults, or a splurge of childish cravings? A quick phone call and all the luxuries of the world are ours.
We are like baby kings, and the fact that we cannot observe the labourers abroad who provide the goodies does not disturb our sleep.
These three images, all from Brussels, seem to me to pinpoint the unhealthy mixture of a tradition of power, resources of control, and the fascination of gaining our own advantages, and satisfying our tastes, which underpins so much modern existence. We don’t believe that we are in any position to prevent the fallout from this heady combination. But we do have the freedom to seek for a spiritual basis to our friendships and ways of living.
Horses often come to us looking for attention. They have been taught to act in a domesticated and even submissive way. Perhaps they invented the idea of selfies before humans did! It possibly did not occur to them what situations of great harm and distress they would enter into as a result, having to bear men in heavy armour hoisted onto their backs, and to trample through landscapes of churned up mud and slaughtered bodies, human and animal.
Not all medieval attitudes towards animals were caring and patient by any means. At an early stage, women as well as men realised the extra leverage over their neighbours could be gained by saddling a horse and fitting themselves out with swords, spears and regular violent training.
We may sometimes be inclined to sympathise, as when an invading army has better resources and equipment. The Iceni led by Boadicea (Boudicca) had only local knowledge as their advantage over the empire-building Romans. Both sides were pagans, so we can’t hide behind loyalties to a Christian tradition to explain why we would side with one or the other.
Presumably it is just the romance of seeing a vulnerable yet brave underdog militia up, against a drilled and remorseless invader which makes us pleased to see a stirring statue of Boudicca in her chariot on the London embankment. Romance favours heroism, without much in the way of challenging self-awareness to question the means that are employed to win the day. Faith in the Lord Jesus who died for love of enemies is dimmed.
NAIB has drawn our attention to this exhibition in Chichester Cathedral’s North Transept until Monday 14th November 2016.
Ana Maria Pacheco’s outstanding and powerful installation Shadows of the Wanderer is a multi-piece figurative sculpture in polychromed wood, in which ten over life-size darkly robed figures witness the struggle of a young man to carry an older man on his shoulders. This powerful image resonates with contemporary and topical issues of exile, migration and the displacement of people struggling to flee persecution. Ana was inspired by Virgil’s Aeneid, where the hero Aeneas carries his lame father Anchises on his back, leading a band of refugees from the ravaged ruins of Troy.
Ana Maria Pacheco (sculptor, painter and printmaker) was born in Brazil. Following degrees in both art and music she went on to complete a postgraduate course in music and education at the Federal University of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro. She then taught and lectured for several years at the Pontifical Catholic University of Goiás and the Federal University of Goiás before leaving for London in 1973 on a British Council Scholarship to the Slade School of Fine Art. Since then she has lived and worked in England
Her work is deeply rooted in Latin American and European social history and culture and deals with serious narratives and enduring themes (journeys, spirituality, mythology, unchecked power) that contribute to the many layers of interpretation and meaning in her work. It has a strong humanist message and is capable of arousing extreme emotions.
Shadows of the Wanderer
The exhibition was officially opened on Friday 15th July 2016 by David Elliott, Curator and Writer.
This exhibition has been curated by Jacquiline Creswell (Salisbury Cathedral’s Visual Arts Advisor), Pratt Contemporary and Chichester Cathedral’s Exhibitions Committee.
Chichester Cathedral: Shadows of the wanderer.shtml
Our Own Hopes Had Been… [19-24]
We now come to the account the two disciples give to ‘the stranger’ of what happened. What the stranger/Jesus is doing is listening to their experience of what happened, and as we listen with him—which is what we try to do at this station—we can become aware of several things.
- The first is that in pouring out their experience it is clear that they cannot understand it, still less accept that it makes any sense at all. It should not have been allowed. The unspoken question, their cri de coeur, is: Where was God? Why did God allow it to happen?
- That’s not a million miles from the way we might have experienced it if we had been there. All the more reason then to pause a little longer at this Station.
- If we pay closer attention to what they say we will surely recognise the Gospel story, only it is not ‘Gospel’/Good News! It is their experience of the story, told from ‘a purely human’ point of view, and it is heavy with the weight of failure and ‘loss of faith’.
- First, there is the failure of the religious authorities [our chief priests and rulers] to recognise and accept Jesus of Nazareth as the prophet he had shown himself to be: ‘mighty in word and deed before God and all the people’. And not only that: They had delivered him up to be condemned to death.
- And now they admit to a faltering in their own faith: ‘But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel.
- They then go on to talk about something else that has happened, something that seems to have disturbed them even more than the death of Jesus, and which has probably driven them to leave Jerusalem: ‘Some women of our company have amazed us’. They say they have been to the tomb and did not find his body but that they had ‘seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive’. Some others [presumably men!] had gone to check for themselves ‘and found it just as the women had said; but him they did not see’.
- It is at this point that the stranger ‘breaks in’, upbraiding them for their lack of faith, so slow to believe. But before going there we should allow ourselves to be questioned also, and to hear what we might say in reply.
What is this like for us today?
- How do we try to ‘make sense of’ the crucifixion of Jesus, and of the apparent powerlessness of Jesus—and of God—to prevent it?
- This is not about theology but faith, about trusting and accepting that God’s power, and way of doing things, is very different from ours.
- Do we believe/accept that? What difference does it make to the way we actually live, and make decisions?
- When we talk—argue, complain—about what is happening, or not happening, in the Church today do we hear ourselves like these two disciples, telling it as we see it: needing it to make sense [our kind of sense]; and, of course, finding someone to blame [our chief priests and rulers]?