Tag Archives: trust

February 9: N is for Nowhere

noahs-ark-lo-res-shrewsbury-cathedral-window-detail

Apologies to Newington, Newport, Nonnington and any other candidates for this spot, but Nowhere came to mind and would not go away.

One person who did go to Nowhere was Noah, taking his little world with him, or being taken by it. How could he steer the Ark with no landmarks and no stars in the sky? John Masefield was a sailor around the turn of the 20th Century; even without GPS, he generally knew where he was and need not be anxious, even when alone at the wheel through the night:

I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.

There is no record of Noah being anxious on board; but like many a sailor he relaxed and drank himself into oblivion once on shore. A different sort of Nowhere, not one to visit often. But Jesus and his followers were castigated as drunkards; though no doubt their critics’ stories grew in the telling!

Another Nowhere was the starting point for this reflection. I was privileged to arrive at the maternity unit moments after my grandson was born, and was holding him when his father came into the room and called him, ‘Hello, Abel!’

In all the confusion of that strange place, totally beyond the world he knew from his mother’s womb, he knew that voice, and turned to face his father. Nowhere became Somewhere!

From then on Abel has explored the world. It has become a place, a home, with the house he shares with his parents at its centre.

May we listen for Our Father’s voice and be ready to follow his commands as Noah did, trusting, trusting, when we feel lost.

Ark window, Shrewsbury Cathedral, Margaret Rope.

Sea Fever, John Masefield

 

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5 February, 2018. Helping and Helping II: Come, follow me, my friend!

After yesterday’s story of a blind man finding his way, here is a tale of …

The Fog by W. H. Davies

I saw the fog grow thick,
Which soon made blind my ken;
It made tall men of boys,
And giants of tall men.

It clutched my throat, I coughed;
Nothing was in my head
Except two heavy eyes
Like balls of burning lead.

And when it grew so black
That I could know no place,
I lost all judgement then,
Of distance and of space.

The street lamps, and the lights
Upon the halted cars,
Could either be on earth
Or be the heavenly stars.

A man passed by me close,
I asked my way, he said,
“Come, follow me, my friend”—
I followed where he led.

He rapped the stones in front,
“Trust me,” he said, “and come”;
I followed like a child—
A blind man led me home.

… a blind man leading the way. Jesus may have spoken of the blind leading the blind into the ditch, but that did not happen this time. The sighted man who could not see found his way thanks to a blind man with the simple technology of a white stick, tapping and trailing on the paving stones, coupled with a good memory.

Jesus was talking of spiritual blindness, warning us about following fashionable and presumptuous teachers, in his day the Pharisees: ‘Let them alone: they are blind, and leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both will fall into the pit.’ (Matthew 14:15).

(By the way, I saw the blind man of yesterday’s post a few weeks later, confidently making his way along Station Road, unaided.)

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December 14 : Zechariah, unlikely Advent Star II.

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Zechariah quickly becomes the focus of St. Luke’s narrative:

Now it happened that it was the turn of Zechariah’s section to serve, and he was exercising his priestly office before God when it fell to him by lot, as the priestly custom was, to enter the Lord’s sanctuary and burn incense there. At the hour of incense all the people were outside praying (1:8-10).

Here is Zechariah, an older man, exercising his priestly duties once again. I see him wearing the priestly robes, silently entering the sanctuary and carrying out the rituals prayerfully and in the prescribed manner. He does this, perhaps rather slowly due to his age, but also beautifully, with innate grace of movement and dignity of bearing. This has happened many times and Zechariah knows all the prayers and actions by heart. Everything flows smoothly. He reverently lights the coals; the incense fills the holy place with its fragrance. He loves this religious duty and never tires of it. He is alone with his God and prays fervently for his people.

There are never any surprises here for Zechariah. Ever. Perhaps this is another clue to Zechariah’s character. He knows what should happen next. Maybe he knows this a bit too well. Ordinarily, for frail human beings, our greatest strengths have a flip side, when our greatest weaknesses take over. We usually have a hard time being balanced. Zechariah is like all of us here. His great religious devotion, and his familiarity with what was prescribed by the Law in exercising his priestly office, might not have prepared him for what would happen this time. New ideas are never easy to absorb, especially new ideas about religion. And what would happen this time to Zechariah, as we know, was not merely a new idea, but an entirely new experience of the numinous, and a new revelation of God’s will.

ZMaybe this is a good place to stop and pray. Is this a time in my life when God is asking something new of me – for which I do not feel prepared? Advent is always such a time. The Incarnation is something so new that it cannot be imagined: God’s very Son is born. The Eternal Word of the Father becomes an infant. Have I lost my sense of how astonishing this is? Am I somewhat entrenched in a religious mind-set that I have acquired and maintained for years now? Can I imagine letting go of this so that God can lead me to something I have never experienced before?

SJC

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November 30: Jesus Beyond Dogma II: xxx – Pray!

samaritanwomanBaptistery, Abbey of St Maurice, Switzerland

Institutional Religion at its best needs incarnational living – you say it, now live it – otherwise we will let intimacy decay into orthopraxy. This is why contemplation has a social element. The openness of the prairie alongside living in my backyard. In this way every difference can find a hearing and enjoy respect, when all becomes one in the mystery. For to know God is vital – more important than what I am going to do about it. We have differences of all kinds – this should tell us that we cannot all see God in the same way! What matters is to hear what God is asking and respond uniquely: as God has shown me what it was mine to do may God show you what is yours to do. It is we who are threatened by differences, not God.

I can trust myself because God trusts me. Nothing about me will be used against me – even my sin is forgiven! Sin shall not be your shame, but your glory – Julian of Norwich. If this isn’t good news what is? The Samaritan woman with 5 husbands doesn’t get a lecture on Canon Law; Jesus joins her where she is – by listening to her; and then invites her into freedom, and asks her to spread it around – he told me all about myself… and not just what she already knew! Do not be afraid – your life is respected and is working for your well-being. Nothing within us is as bad as our denial of it, since everything belongs.

To be aware of the presence of God is to be forgiven, to be cherished exactly as I am. To be holy [whole] is know God as total love and self as loved by God totally: You will enjoy the mystery of salvation through forgiveness of sin – cf. Luke 1.77. There is no room for forgiveness in a world of meritocracy, it can’t breathe in an atmosphere of rights. How can you have a quid-pro-quo where love and compassion are already given without the asking – fore-given!

The early Church believed universal salvation – apokatastasis – but it was never defined [or condemned]. Since I have brought good from the worst-ever evil, I want you to know I bring good out of lesser evils too – Julian of Norwich. God is the only teacher and the only lesson is love. Do I want Isis to be loved and forgiven? With the 11th hour labourers and the Prodigal along with his brother there’s no question of having to deserve. God cannot be where forgiveness is not welcome. It sets logic aside – what is appropriate is a time of quiet to make room for regret and repentance – not to gain forgiveness, but to recover self-respect.

A common feature of personal sin is the delight we seem to take in highlighting the sins of others. Forgiveness is costly, it is taking on a powerlessness by allowing nothing to keep me from being with – as God is freely and always with me – even when I am decidedly not with God [take up your cross daily]. What is at the heart of physical attraction, why are we fascinated by the image of another? How we relate to one person sets a pattern for my relating. It is bringing together our differences – human and divine, male and female, sin and forgiveness. So, who are sinners? Anyone who keeps all these things apart from each other – Religion – re-ligio means to reconnect; reconciling opposites. Christianity is the only religion believing in the full enfleshment of God – yet we seem to have problems with it.

AMcC

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24 October, May we find Christ walking with us: I, On the (iron) road.

steamtrainNI 

 

This phrase from one of Friar Chris’s bidding prayers stayed with me. He had been preaching on the disciples on the way to Emmaus, but my mind switched to everyday scenes. Christ is walking with us, if we care to open our eyes.

You can find Fr Chris’s homily from this link: Chris.s.emmaus.2017

Every week I travel by train and have time to observe the esprit de corps among the railway workers. Thanks to computerised rosters, two men or women may not work together very often, but still they have to rely on each other. Day by day I hear the same affectionate banter that you can discern in Jesus’ calling Peter ‘the Rock’, or James and John his ‘Sons of Thunder’.

There are greetings for regular travellers, often by name. ‘Morning Will!’ It has been known for news of my son to reach me through his railwayman friend rather than direct from the horse’s mouth.

It’s impressive to see how railway people take care of disabled travellers. Ramps for wheelchairs, an arm for a blind traveller, escorts for a frail old person between platforms or to the taxi rank.

I know I’ve made these points before, but they are worth repeating. And there are other traveller’s joys to be had from the cheerful chap in the motorway toll booth, the staff in the café or the transport enthusiast bursting to share his customised car with the people at the next table. Let’s open our eyes, open our ears and open our hearts to the Christ we do not at first recognise.

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12 October: Laudato Si’, again!

grow.wild (800x664)

There was a bonus to our harvest of wedding flowers at L’Arche Kent’s hidden garden.

Rupert, the Garden Leader at the Glebe, was telling us how they have been striving to have a garden friendly to insects – the other day you will have seen the little insect apartments we’ll be making over the winter.

And now, Rupert told us, the inspectors or advisors from the Wildlife Trust had called, and were pleased to see the flowers growing in the raised beds. ‘Those will attract the bees’, they said. Perhaps the garden will get a silver eco-friendly certificate this year to go with last year’s bronze.

So when we cleared the beds after harvesting the flowers Rupert asked us to sow more seeds. He had half a pack of grow wild seeds to hand, so with those and a few other old favourites that were languishing at the bottom of the seed box, there was plenty to scatter.

Can Spring be far behind? Autumn sowing is an act of faith, of trust in the good Lord’s bounty.The seedlings are showing green already, promise of more to come, like last year’s display.

Laudato Si’!

You can find L’Arche Kent on Facebook and at http://www.larche.org.uk/Sites/kent/Pages/about-larche-kent

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19 July: G is for Valley Gardens

berlin.charlottenberg.flowerbed

Since I was small, I had always loved gardening, so when the chance came of a holiday job at the parks in Castleford, I seized it. The town council took a pride in their parks, lung-savers in an industrial landscape. As well as the mines there were glassworks, a  factory producing chemicals such as wood preservers, a coke oven and a maltings: the least offensive smell. In a heat wave the fumes gathered in the valley where the town was built on the ford. The rivers ran black. Breathing was a challenge.

Valley Gardens was our nearest park: a good park with a crown bowling green, playground for the children, lawns and lots of traditional bedding, the plants grown in the council’s own nursery. There was also raised bedding with scented plants for blind people to enjoy. And so they did.

I’m ever grateful for the skills learnt at Valley Gardens but also for the attitude to work imbibed from the older guys I worked alongside. Many had been miners and knew how to pace themselves to be productive over the whole day. They were also humble enough to put themselves through the City and Guilds Certificate training: men who knew how to handle tools, being ‘taught’ how to dig or prune before taking on specialised skills such as caring for the greens.

mermaidrose (542x408)

Recently I read that Valley Gardens, for many years the responsibility of Wakefield City council, is run-down and the play area no longer safe. A committee has been formed to revive this park. When I was there, people knew the decision makers in town. Now they are in Wakefield and need never go near Valley Gardens.

I hope the committee is supported by the community and Wakefield council so that the gardens return to their former glory.

There are parallels in church life. We need to trust people, even  those who shun responsibilities, with a mission they may fail at. Apart from Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus, who were members of the Sanhedrin, Jesus chose women and misfits for his first generation of leaders. I don’t recall his disciples sitting exams.

Since writing this post I read an article describing how the people who use the parks the most are poorer people, people without gardens of their own. So it is poor people who take the brunt of government spending cuts in this area of life, as in so many others.

Our beds were every bit as lovely – and more so – than this semiformal planting in Berlin’s Charlottenberg Park. The Roses were a feature of Valley Gardens: the older gardeners taught me how to prune them. This is ‘Mermaid’, who needs very careful handling with her vicious thorns. But she’s lovely!

 

 

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July 10, 2017: Taking the risk to trust Jesus

 

good shepherd mada3
Readings: Genesis.28:10-22, Psalm. 90. Gospel Matthew 9:18-26

Each day of our lives we take decisions that could change our lives forever.  Sometimes these decisions may not be right but we take responsibility for the outcome.

The woman in the gospel today decided to make a move, for she told herself ‘even if I could touch the fringe of his cloak, I will be well again’.

It takes me back to so many people I encounter every day, especially those who have been plagued with different illnesses. There are those whom doctors have told they have maybe days, weeks months or years to live. The woman in the gospel had her illness for twelve years. All hope has been lost but when Jesus appeared everything was made new again .It becomes important for me to say that there is no challenge or difficulty in this world that cannot be overcome with the help of Christ. The question is: will I be willing to decide today to hand him over all the activities and events of my life? God says in Genesis28:15 – “be sure that I am with you, I will keep you safe wherever you go…”

FMSL

 

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10 April: The Big Mile, or Patient Trust.

madonna-closeup-hales-pl

Jesus, arms outstretched, at the start of his earthly life. Statue at Hales Place.  The Sacred Heart emblem has been lost from his breast, but the Cross is on his shoulder.

 

One Sunday after Mass Friends of the Franciscan Study Centre walked  to Hales Place Jesuit Chapel in aid of the Saint Vincent de Paul Society’s Big Mile appeal. There we read the following prayer by Père Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, once a student at the Jesuit College, since demolished.

 

 

Patient Trust

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.

Ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.

Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

http://www.ignatianspirituality.com/8078/prayer-of-theilhard-de-chardin

 

Holy Week must have seemed a long and anxious time for Jesus.

Let us bring before him all the impatience, instability, anxiety and incompleteness felt by ourselves and those we love. I ask you to remember especially all of us connected with the Franciscan Study Centre as its mission here in Canterbury comes to an end.

MMB.


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31 March: “Is Christianity Dead?”- Our Response to BBB: VI, Scandal.

_Blake_-_The_Ghost_of_a_Flea_-_Google_Art_Project

Dear BBB,

There is, of course, an elephant in the room. Has anyone ever said to you something like, ‘Your priests are all child molesters.’ It’s not true of course, but

The disciples came to Jesus, saying: Who thinkest thou is the greater in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus calling unto him a little child, set him in the midst of them, and said: Amen I say to you, unless you be converted, and become as little children, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, he is the greater in the kingdom of heaven. And he that shall receive one such little child in my name, receiveth me. But he that shall scandalise one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.

Matthew 18:1-6.

It is not just non-Catholics who are scandalised. I once got chatting to a visitor to Saint Thomas’ in Canterbury, totally thrown off balance by learning that his beloved parish priest had been convicted of viewing and storing child pornography on his computer. The institutional church has to regain our trust. 

As a parish minister, working with children, there came a day when I had to submit my name for a police check that I had no record of abusing children. I felt violated that it had come to this. I don’t need to be told that those who suffered abuse from trusted priests and other adults had far more reason to feel violated, but we are one body in Christ. What violates my brother or sister violates me. And if my sister or brother walks away, I am the poorer: if I don’t feel the poorer, something is wrong with me.

You, dear BBB, not only noticed their absence, you drew it to our attention. Thank you.

Then came the disciples to Jesus secretly, and said: Why could not we cast [the demon] out? Jesus said to them: Because of your unbelief. For, amen I say to you, if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, you shall say to this mountain, Remove from hence hither, and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible to you. But this kind is not cast out but by prayer and fasting.

Matthew 17:19-21.

It will take time for many to take our message seriously so long as we are not seen to be loving one another.

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