Missionary Sisters of Our Lady of Africa with symbols of the gifts their congregation shared with the people of Zambia, where their Mission has been passed on to others.
Photo: Missionaries of Africa
Another word from Fr Andrew SDC:
My point about the widow’s mite was just that it is true of all things. God does not ask you to have much but to give what you have to give, if it is only two mites of money, or time, or character, or intellect, or anything else.
God bless and keep you.
Sometimes it does feel as though I need to dig deep to find anything to share with people, let alone with God, so today I’m grateful to receive Fr Andrew’s words, and glad to share them with you. And to relate his wisdom to the giving of the sisters symbolised in the picture above. My symbol today might be a hand scratching my head: I’m grateful to receive Fr Andrew’s words!
Life and Letters of Father Andrew p98.
‘Twas on a Monday morning the gas man came to call.’ (Flanders and Swan). But this one knew just what he was doing, changing the meter and leaving all safe and sound.
He called me to witness that all was safely sealed at the end of the job by observing the manometer connected to the equipment. ‘We don’t like excitement,’ he said, as the level stayed exactly the same for the required times.
‘Those rubber washers are possibly the most important part of the whole thing, they guarantee your safety. Yet they are cheap, so cheap that they send them out in packs of a hundred. They wouldn’t do that if they cost pounds each.’
Who do we rely on but never give a thought to? Make sure you acknowledge them, pass the time of day, give them a smile. I am very glad our house is safe from gas leaks and all appliances are working; thank you, Martin the gasman!
As long as you did it to one of these my least brethren, you did it to me.
Can he who hurls the lightening from the top
and swirls the rain,
disarm us with a baby’s grin and stop
earth’s spin? Then start again?
Can he be like a jester – on his head –
quite turned around?
Or is it us – bewildered thoughts unsaid –
who’re upside down?
Of course, the problem’s us and not with God.
We think we Know.
We think our view is true – and his plain odd.
But he’s below
so far is he above. He is a mite,
so vast is he,
so full of life as to become finite –
an infant God. And poor, do not forget.
So strange, this tale.
We hear it year by year and love it, yet
we simply fail
to follow footsteps leading down. We fall
instead – yes, all –
which is as well because the paradox, recall,
is this: God’s small.
In modern language, we might say that the eight evil thoughts, as enumerated by John Cassian, are our “shadow side”, for, says Cassian, “they exist in everyone, yet no one knows of them until they are laid open by the teaching of the elders and the Word of the Lord”.
No one knows of them because, as we would say now, we deny that side of ourselves. Yet, far from suggesting that the confrontation with our evil thoughts is a sign that we are back-sliding, Cassain tells us that this is a sign of progress.
What are these evil thoughts? According to Cassian they are:
gluttony, fornication, avarice, anger, sadness, sloth (or acedia), vainglory and pride.
To explore his treatment of each vice would go beyond the scope of these posts. But, it is still worth noting that these tendencies, Cassian maintains, are just part of the human package, like it or not. This is not such bad news, however. The fact that we have the ability to see these tendencies within ourselves is a sign that God is there, providing the light by which they are seen (Conferences 23, XVII, 3).
The one who has made an effort to cut down on superfluous material things will find himself less occupied by concerns about maintaining them, repairing them, updating them. The heart begins to be free. It becomes possible to pray more, according to John Cassian. But this does not mean that purity of heart has now been achieved. It is not unusual, under such circumstances, to develop a more intense awareness of one’s own weaknesses and sinful tendencies.
Rather than seeing unending streams of light proceeding from within, one may find what Cassian calls “evil thoughts” emerging. According to Cassian, this shouldn’t come as any surprise, for Jesus himself warns us that this is what we are like: “Out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander” (Mt. 15: 19). Perhaps I am someone who has read that passage many times in scripture, yet, when I finally realise that this is a home truth about me, it can be shocking.
This is where Cassian comes to assist – not with false consolation that endeavours to sweep all the difficulties under the carpet. He comes with true insight into the reality of our interior life. Cassian enumerates eight principal vices, or “evil thoughts,” as he calls them. He calls them “thoughts” because he knows that our deeds, whether good or bad, are conceived first as thoughts before they become actions. So, it is there, on the level of our thoughts, that conversion needs to occur.