We ought by now to have included a few more posts from St Thomas’ church as well as from St Mildred’s! So here is Canon Anthony’s thought for today, fresh from his retreat at home. We’ll include a few more as time goes by. Will T.
My Thoughts on 20/03/2021
I have finished my 5 day retreat and would like thank you for all your prayers and good wished. It was organised by the Jesuit Spirituality Team for Catholic Clergy. Although it was not the same as going away, I found it a great blessing and hopefully prepared me for the coming Holy Week.
In today’s gospel the chief priest and the Pharisees wanted Jesus arrested. They didn’t like what he was saying and doing. They wanted to arrest him and certainly refused to consider him a prophet.”Go into the matter, and see for yourself : prophets do not come out of Galilee.”
This reminds me of the report in the Guardian newspaper in January about the persecution of Christians face today in many parts of the world.
“More than 340 million Christians – one in eight – face high levels of persecution and discrimination because of their faith, according to the 2021 World Watch List compiled by the Christian advocacy group Open Doors. It says there was a 60% increase over the previous year in the number of Christians killed for their faith. More than nine out of 10 of the global total of 4,761 deaths were in Africa.”
Here in the UK we are blessed to have the freedom to express our belief freely and unhindered. Let us pray for all those who at this time are persecuted and suffer imprisonments torture and even death for being followers of Jesus Christ.
Sister Johanna is back! With Advent just around the corner, we find Jesus and the disciples looking for peace and quiet to absorb the news about the prophet of Advent, John the Baptist.
Jesus and the disciples withdrew by boat to a lonely place…. But the crowds heard and went after him on foot. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them and healed their sick (Mt.14:13f.).
Jesus and the disciples are taken by surprise here – several surprises. The first surprise is a shattering piece of news: they had just heard of the death of John the Baptist – that’s why they wanted to go off by themselves. It’s easy to forget that Jesus and his disciples were like us, and the death of Jesus’ cousin John, who had been a profound spiritual force in their lives, was as traumatic for them as such a thing would be to us. Jesus knew that they all needed some space in order to come to terms with their grief – to some extent anyway. So Jesus organises a boat, and they go by sea to what they hoped would be a place of solitude. They needed to talk about John together, to weep, to pray.
But no solitude was given. Second surprise: a large crowd met them as they got out of the boat. Jesus was grief-stricken, but he saw the faith-filled, needy crowd, and was filled with pity. It’s possible, in fact, that their great faith strengthened Jesus, and enabled him to heal their sick. As I read this, however, I found myself thinking about the disciples, rather than the miraculous healing of the crowd. The disciples don’t seem able to draw energy from the crowd. What happens to them? The text doesn’t say, but during the time when Jesus is healing the crowd, the disciples seem to have disappeared. They are still overwhelmed by grief, surely; I imagine them creeping away, out of sight of all the people who are focused on Jesus. They try to watch the action from a safe distance maybe. As I read on, I realise that Jesus also remembers his disciples, even while he is taken up with the needs of the crowd. He knows that his sorrowing disciples need healing, too.
At length, a further situation develops. Evening comes. Those whom Jesus had healed need to eat. The disciples materialise now, finally, and suggest that Jesus draw the event to a close so that they can all find some food somewhere. Jesus has a different idea. ‘There is no need for the people to go,’ Jesus tells the disciples. ‘Give them something to eat yourselves.’ They must have groaned inwardly at Jesus’ words, and wondered what madness had possessed him. They only had the provisions they had brought with them: five loaves and two fish – barely enough for their own meal. There are over five thousand people to feed. Jesus, always good at registering unspoken words, reads the disciples’ stunned and tired faces and doesn’t even try to dialogue further with them, in Matthew’s account. Jesus simply tells the disciples to bring him their food. Jesus himself instructs the people to sit down on the grass. Then, quietly blessing the food and breaking the five loaves, he gives the bread and fish to the disciples to distribute to the five-thousand-plus people. We know how this story ends. Everybody eats – and well. Third surprise for them.
Why does Jesus do this? The people could probably have managed to get home without expiring, picking up some food as they went through different villages on the way. This miracle of feeding doesn’t seem to be one that addressed a desperate need, as did the physical healings Jesus had performed for them earlier in that day. But Jesus has a message here. He seems to be saying: “I do not fulfil only the minimum requirements of a needy situation, and I do not address only the most obvious and most desperate troubles of my people. I am willing to do more – so much more than you have asked or think you need. Or rather, I show you that you need more than you think. The healing that you sought from me is not complete without the food that I alone can give you.” That was perhaps Jesus’ primary message, and it was addressed both to the crowd and to the disciples. And now to us. But something more was involved here for the disciples. I would like to explore this tomorrow in a second reflection on this story.
Father James Kurzynski has been on retreat in the Arizona desert. Here are his reflections on his return to parish duties and the new world(s) he is invited to enter through astronomy, his retreat, and Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’.
After 10 weeks, my prayer has become very physical, meaning paying close attention to both the movements of God in my prayer and the warning signs that the physical waters of my body were getting dry. Am I inserting wry humor at this point? Partially. I am also making a point of one of the greatest gifts this sabbatical has given to me – Prayer is a lot easier when you are well hydrated… or better put, my physical health is intimately and inseparably tied to my spiritual health.
This insight shouldn’t be terribly shocking to the Christian. We often speak of total participation in the celebration of the Eucharist in which every aspect of who we are is brought to prayer. We speak of this odd co-mingling of two different worlds, The Earthly Liturgy and the Heavenly Liturgy, happening simultaneously. This is all well and good and should be at the tip of every Christian’s worshiping tongue.
Do follow the link and read on! Maybe we all need to question that which was in no need of being questioned, in our lives and in our hearts.
Good morning and hope this finds you well, as we are here at the Rectory. One of the things I find difficult about this lockdown, is remembering what day it is! Those of you watching Morning Prayer know where I am coming from…is it Wednesday or Thursday, and then the reassuring sound of the rubbish Lorry (thank you keyworkers) alerted me to the fact that it’s Thursday – but what does differentiate our days?
Several people have mentioned that this rhythm of prayer (Morning Prayer & Compline), work (paid work or clearing cupboards/gardening), exercise, and rest is very monastic, and something that I have reflected on myself. Last night I caught up with a friend of mine, a sister in a closed convent, and we chatted on Zoom (yes is possible), and how this rhythm to our days was not that dissimilar to their way of life.
May years ago I was introduced to something called Rhythm of life, how each day one should have a quiet time, each week a quiet time (Sabbath), every month maybe a quiet day, every year maybe a retreat – and what this feels like at the moment is a global ‘retreat’, everything has been paused – a chance of reflection, of asking some of the bigger questions, of giving our planet that opportunity to breathe….of action and contemplation. That rhythm of alternating between meeting with God in the quiet place, and then the meeting of God in the busyness of the market place.
Rev Jo Richards, Rector, Benefice of St Dunstan, St Mildred and St Peter, Canterbury.
Fr James Kurzynski of the Vatican Observatory Website recently wrote about his coming sabbatical retreat. Follow the link to read his reflections before he proceeds to the desert of Arizona. Here is part of his article.
I felt a deep peace about what I would call “detachment Wednesdays.” Wednesday will be a day of silence, encouraging us to not speak verbally, unplug from anything that could distract us, and take a day of restful prayer.
Two weeks age, I gave a presentation about my sabbatical to St. Olaf’s youth in our Faith Formation Program. When I got to the part of explaining Wednesday Unplugged, I told them, “Don’t bother trying to get a hold of me on Wednesday, but do know each one of you will be prayed for that day as I prayerfully take St. Olaf Parish with me into the desert.”
Wednesdays and Fridays are traditionally the more concentrated days of the week in Lent; ‘Spy Wednesday’ in Holy Week seen as the day when Judas went to betray his Lord; Good Friday when Jesus, his Lord and Ours, died for all our sin. All our sin, as the Sculptor of Strasbourg Cathedral makes clear.
We cannot all dedicate our Wednesdays to restful prayer, any more than Fr James can do during most of his working life, but let us try to find a desert moment to be restful and open to prayer, even if it’s sitting on the bus home, or a quiet cup of tea before going to get the children from school.
I am writing this post in July, not a Lenten month at all. People in England are looking forward to the summer holidays, to relaxation rather than to rigorous fasting and spiritual exercise. But there is also a market – I use the word deliberately – for spiritual activities. Here are a few random web ads for yoga experiences; we could look at other sorts of spiritual experience, but yoga seems popular among those who can afford it.
What about a yoga immersion course – is the hint of baptismal initiation deliberate, I wonder?
Or a restful and rejuvenating yoga retreat, with mindfulness vegetarian food? The Cistercians are vegetarian and eat in silence, but is it the food or the shared nature of meal that contributes to ‘mindfulness’?
What about a Japanese yoga retreat mixing body-transforming jivamukti yoga with hikes through forests peppered with ancient temples. Could you not get the transformed body from the gym and hikes through the local countryside?
What are the purchasers of the top 30 yoga retreats going into the luxury desert to seek? Classical yoga and ‘divine’ spa treatments? Notice the Christian religious language that creeps into these ads, even the ‘transformed body’ has resonances, especially at the time you are reading, the season of preparation for Easter, when life is changed, not taken away.
Our desert this Lent makes no claim to be luxurious, nor will a few minutes of reading with us transform your earthly bodies, but we do hope the Spirit is leading us into the desert where we can receive a renewal of our baptism, the original and best divine spa treatment. And as for mindfulness food: must I spell it out?
Here is a hymn by Lucien Deiss that draws on 2Timothy2 and other texts: Keep in mind.