Tag Archives: truth

29 November: Advent Light III: enable us to return!

St Mildred’s Church, Canterbury.
Let us pray,
God and Father, 
to those who go astray you reveal the light of your truth 
and enable them to return to the right path. 

Grant that all who have received the grace of baptism 
may strive to be worthy of their Christian calling 
and reject everything opposed to it. 

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, 
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, 
God, for ever and ever.
Amen.

We can all, each and every one of us, go astray; indeed, we all do go astray, day by day. Let us consider one miss-step we have made today, and turn again from it back to the path: Repent!

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26 November: Jesus was Praying Alone, III.

Jesus realises the truth of his passion and resurrection before meeting the disciples at Easter.

If you are just joining us, I invite you to scroll back to the posts of the last two days. We are looking at Luke 9:18f, and we’re considering the interrelation of the two questions Jesus asks his disciples about his identity. We ended yesterday with the realisation that the crowds’ opinion of Jesus’ identity was much tamer than that of the disciples. Yet, these very crowds would finally prove to be murderous. This is the real issue Jesus is raising here, I believe. He wants the disciples to begin to grasp that following him means that they will be putting their very lives in jeopardy. Would the disciples have the strength for what would come? Would they be able to hang on to their conviction about Jesus’ divinity no matter what the crowds thought and did?

The short answer is no. When Jesus was arrested, tried by a rigged jury and crucified, the disciples, with few exceptions – and those mostly among his female followers – caved in. Jesus already foresaw it. I imagine that this was the subject of Jesus’ prayer on the occasion we are reflecting on. He emerged from prayer knowing that he needed to try to prepare his men for the kind of courage that would be asked of them. We can see Jesus’ delicacy here. They will be asked to undergo their own passion in imitation of him after he has died, risen and ascended. He doesn’t force this information upon them in all its brutal detail yet – it would be far, far too much for them. They cannot yet grasp Jesus’ own passion, much less are they able to contemplate theirs. But he asks them questions which would enable them to, as it were, eventually tumble to the truth. Subsequent events show that it takes the disciples a very long time to reach that truth – and when then do, they do only because Jesus has ascended and sent them the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor, to lead them to all truth.

What can we learn from all this? We can learn that we are invited to be courageous – way beyond what we may imagine. We learn that we need to hold fast to our belief in Jesus’ divine identity. Jesus is the Christ of God. Jesus is God. Like the original twelve disciples, we are doing well if we believe and profess this. But we, like them, stand beside Jesus in this gospel passage as he emerges from his prayer and turns to us with serious eyes and a grave heart to tell us that we will be challenged deeply in our life of discipleship.

Our relationship with ‘the crowds’ will not be a comfortable thing. Now, as ever, there are few members of ‘the crowd’ who really accept Jesus’ divinity, or give full weight to its implications. Popular opinion may think of Jesus as a prophet and a wise man, but such notions do not demand much of those who hold them. We, on the other hand, have committed ourselves to follow Jesus with our whole being, and to accept, in an absolute sense, everything he said and did. There will be plenty of people who will have a platform from which they will speak of their disbelief, elevating it into a sort of alternative theology, and giving it crowd-appeal because of its fine-sounding catch-phrases and use of popular jargon. They will accuse true disciples of being behind the times and of making demands that have been superseded by the demands of the modern world. They may even become murderous towards us.

We see from this episode that Jesus prayed, and then he asked his disciples two interrelated questions of greatest magnitude. We, like Jesus’ first disciples, are asked to see the implications of these questions for our discipleship. Jesus’ solemnity in asking them warns us that it will never be easy to be his disciples “Who do you say that I am” is the most important question we must answer in our life with the Lord. Maintaining our commitment to this answer – no matter what the crowds may think – is the most important thing we will ever do. Are we ready?

Jesus was Praying Alone

Part III


If you are just joining us, I invite you to scroll back to the posts of the last two days. We are looking at Luke 9:18f, and we’re considering the interrelation of the two questions Jesus asks his disciples about his identity. We ended yesterday with the realisation that the crowds’ opinion of Jesus’ identity was much tamer than that of the disciples. Yet, these very crowds would finally prove to be murderous. This is the real issue Jesus is raising here, I believe. He wants the disciples to begin to grasp that following him means that they will be putting their very lives in jeopardy. Would the disciples have the strength for what would come? Would they be able to hang on to their conviction about Jesus’ divinity no matter what the crowds thought and did?


The short answer is no. When Jesus was arrested, tried by a rigged jury and crucified, the disciples, with few exceptions – and those mostly among his female followers – caved in. Jesus already foresaw it. I imagine that this was the subject of Jesus’ prayer on the occasion we are reflecting on. He emerged from prayer knowing that he needed to try to prepare his men for the kind of courage that would be asked of them. We can see Jesus’ delicacy here. They will be asked to undergo their own passion in imitation of him after he has died, risen and ascended. He doesn’t force this information upon them in all its brutal detail yet – it would be far, far too much for them. They cannot yet grasp Jesus’ own passion, much less are they able to contemplate theirs. But he asks them questions which would enable them to, as it were, eventually tumble to the truth. Subsequent events show that it takes the disciples a very long time to reach that truth – and when then do, they do only because Jesus has ascended and sent them the Holy Spirit, the Counsellor, to lead them to all truth.


What can we learn from all this? We can learn that we are invited to be courageous – way beyond what we may imagine. We learn that we need to hold fast to our belief in Jesus’ divine identity. Jesus is the Christ of God. Jesus is God. Like the original twelve disciples, we are doing well if we believe and profess this. But we, like them, stand beside Jesus in this gospel passage as he emerges from his prayer and turns to us with serious eyes and a grave heart to tell us that we will be challenged deeply in our life of discipleship.


Our relationship with ‘the crowds’ will not be a comfortable thing. Now, as ever, there are few members of ‘the crowd’ who really accept Jesus’ divinity, or give full weight to its implications. Popular opinion may think of Jesus as a prophet and a wise man, but such notions do not demand much of those who hold them. We, on the other hand, have committed ourselves to follow Jesus with our whole being, and to accept, in an absolute sense, everything he said and did. There will be plenty of people who will have a platform from which they will speak of their disbelief, elevating it into a sort of alternative theology, and giving it crowd-appeal because of its fine-sounding catch-phrases and use of popular jargon. They will accuse true disciples of being behind the times and of making demands that have been superseded by the demands of the modern world. They may even become

murderous towards us.


We see from this episode that Jesus prayed, and then he asked his disciples two interrelated questions of greatest magnitude. We, like Jesus’ first disciples, are asked to see the implications of these questions for our discipleship. Jesus’ solemnity in asking them warns us that it will never be easy to be his disciples “Who do you say that I am” is the most important question we must answer in our life with the Lord. Maintaining our commitment to this answer – no matter what the crowds may think – is the most important thing we will ever do. Are we ready?

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18 October: Realities that are Unseen, II.

A gate from former military land into Canterbury’s Poets’ Estate.

Sister Johanna’s second post in this series.

___________________________________________

Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen (Hebrews 11: 1-2).

If you weren’t here for yesterday’s post I hope you will scroll back to it to catch up with us.   We’re looking at the relationship between the notion of religious faith and the notion of “proving” unseen realities – it all seemed problematic for me when I first read the verse from Hebrews given above.  “We’re not meant to prove anything; we’re meant to consent to mystery,” I ranted.  

Then, I remembered that frequently when I am doing my lectio, a problem surfaces within the text that seems unsolvable at first.  But after I spend time with the scripture passage, reading and praying, the problem resolves by means of a sort of journey I take into the text, led by the Holy Spirit.  In this case, I now found that the journey involved pondering the words at the end of the quotation given here: ‘realities that are unseen.’  I didn’t know why at that point, but those words seemed important and I kept repeating them slowly in my thoughts.  There is, I find, a balm in this – almost as though my mind craves the nourishment that the words give even before it is able to penetrate to their deeper meaning. 

‘Realities that are unseen.’ As I repeated these words, I began to reflect that unseen realities are not easy to live with, especially for us in our day.  We’re so scientifically minded.  For us, the word ‘reality’ applies mainly to what can be seen or touched or heard; we talk about ‘evidence-based medicine,’ for example–we need evidence that we can actually observe in order to decide on the right medicine.  So, the senses determine what we consider to be reality most of the time.  What is unseen can make us uncomfortable.  We often decide therefore that unseen things don’t exist.

Then it occurred to me that we do live with some unseen realities–constantly and fairly comfortably.  They don’t always discommode us.  Take love, for instance.  Love itself is unseen but we know with every fibre of our being that it is real.  While we know that love is forever seeking to give evidence of its existence through words and actions that are self-giving, even self-sacrificial, we also know that underneath these see-able expressions of love, on a level that is unseen, love exists as a reality.

Faith, I reflected, is like that.  In fact, it is extremely like love, I realised, and is inseparable from love.  Indeed, it is informed by love.  My problem with the scriptural text from Hebrews began to ease as I reflected that although faith is certainly about consenting to the truth of theological propositions that are too mysterious to grasp fully, faith is primarily a loving relationship with the unseen God.  I mentally rewrote the passage from Hebrews: “Only a loving relationship with the unseen God can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen.”  I felt that I was moving closer to an understanding of this text.

Let’s stay with these ideas for the day and find out what they evokes in us.  I hope you will come back tomorrow for the continuation of our reflection.

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25 August: L’Arche pilgrimage I; Prayer by Therese Vanier

May oppressed people and those who oppress them set one another free.
May those who are disabled and those who think they are not, help one another.
May those who need someone to listen to them move the hearts of those who are too busy.
May the homeless give joy to those who, albeit unwillingly, open their door to them.
May the poor melt the hearts of the rich.
May those who seek the truth give life to those who are satisfied because they have already found it.
May the dying who do not want to die be comforted by those who find it very hard to live.
May those who are not loved be authorised to open the hearts of those who are not successful in loving.
May prisoners find true freedom and free others from fear.
May those who sleep on the streets share their kindness with those who do not manage to understand them.
May the hungry tear the veil from the eyes of those who do not hunger for justice.
May those who live without hope purify the hearts of their brothers and sisters who are afraid of living.
May the weak confuse the strong.
May hatred be surmounted by compassion.
May violence be neutralised by men and women of peace.
May it surrender to those who are totally vulnerable, so that we may be healed.
Therese Vanier

In L’Arche Kent Community Pilgrimage handbook 2022. Therese was one of the founders of L’Arche Kent in 1975.

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22 June: The lawyer’s duty.

Samuel Johnson

Today is the feast of Saint Thomas More, a patron of lawyers, so here are two passages to get us thinking about the law and crime, sin and guilt. Christ came to bring the Law of the Old Testament to perfection while challenging those who lived their daily lives by minute rules but bound up burdens too heavy for other people.

On the other hand, the law of the land is there to protect the citizen from harm by the state or his fellows.What is the role of the lawyer? First we hear from Doctor Johnson among lawyers in Edinburgh, during his travels in Scotland on ‘the art and power of arranging evidence’; everyone has a right to a fair hearing. Then Andrew McCooey, a former judge, reflects on the role of faith and the wisdom a lawyer needs to bring to ethical dilemmas.

We talked of the practice of the law. William Forbes said, he thought an honest lawyer should never undertake a cause which he was satisfied was not a just one. ‘Sir,’ said Mr Johnson, ‘a lawyer has no business with the justice or injustice of the cause which he undertakes, unless his client asks his opinion, and then he is bound to give it honestly. The justice or injustice of the cause is to be decided by the judge.

Consider, sir; what is the purpose of courts of justice? It is, that every man may have his cause fairly tried, by men appointed to try causes. A lawyer is not to tell what he knows to be a lie: he is not to produce what he knows to be a false deed; but he is not to usurp the province of the jury and of the judge, and determine what shall be the effect of evidence—what shall be the result of legal argument.

As it rarely happens that a man is fit to plead his own cause, lawyers are a class of the community, who, by study and experience, have acquired the art and power of arranging evidence, and of applying to the points of issue what the law has settled. A lawyer is to do for his client all that his client might fairly do for himself, if he could. If, by a superiority of attention, of knowledge, of skill, and a better method of communication, he has the advantage of his adversary, it is an advantage to which he is entitled. There must always be some advantage, on one side or other; and it is better that advantage should be had by talents, than by chance.

If lawyers were to undertake no causes till they were sure they were just, a man might be precluded altogether from a trial of his claim, though, were it judicially examined, it might be found a very just claim.’

The Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides with Samuel Johnson, LL.D. by James Boswell

The Christian lawyer should walk with the Lord, asking him to direct and bring to us the work he wishes us to undertake and to give us wisdom and discernment in advising our clients. Christ puts up no walls or barriers; no one is so great a sinner that he will not extend his hand to help when there is even a twitch of movement towards conversion. And he expects us also to have that approach.

… We must not do what is popular but what we judge to be right. And we must remember that every human being, including the vilest of criminals, is a child of God, and has the potential to be redeemed.

Andrew McCooey, Hate the sin, not the sinner, The Tablet, 26.2.22, p6.

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Synod Newsletter, 23 April 2022

This week’s message from the synod office looks at what is happening in schools and colleges around the world. We highlight one example below, but you can find more by following the link above.



As part of the local synodal process, the Diocese of Palmerston North in New Zealand has developed a series of resources for school communities. The coordination group welcomes the participation of children and young people.
 
READ MORE

Prayer for the meeting of the synod’s commissions in Rome

Let us keep in mind in our personal and community prayer 
next week's meeting of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops 
with the members of the four synod’s commissions in Rome.

Enlighten, O Lord, the hearts of the participants,
who represent the diversity and richness of the Church.
Dispose their minds to listen to the Spirit of truth
so that their work and their reflections may best
serve Your Church. 
Let them discover how to transmit
in the best way the experience of being a listening Church
and promote the participation of God's people.
On this journey, to which we are all called
to be enthused by the fire of the Spirit
that gives the necessary gifts at the right time,
we want to open ourselves, together with Mary
to the newness of a life of faith
which is built in communion
on the paths of love and hope.
AMEN

https://mailchi.mp/synod/newsletter112022_en?e=9c8f6d48c5

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4 April, My vocation today XVI: Friendship and wisdom.

The eighteenth century poet Edward Young seems to have been a poor sleeper! Did he lie awake in the dark, composing and memorising his verses to write them out in the morning, or keep a lit candle at his bedside, or fumble with flint and tinder box to strike a light? It’s clear that he did not trust solitary philosophising, but counted on discussion with friends to arrive at truth.

And if you raise an eyebrow at calling this post ‘my vocation today’, go back and read about the humble generosity of books. Writers’ vocation can live on after death, awaiting a new companion when a book is opened. Let’s read what Edward Young has to say to us about flesh and blood friendship and its challenges to see through another’s eyes. Lorenzo is an imaginary friend.

How often we talk’d down the summer’s sun,  
And cool’d our passions by the breezy stream! 
How often thaw’d and shorten’d winter’s eve, 
By conflict kind, that struck out latent truth, 
Best found, so sought; to the recluse more coy! 
Thoughts disentangle passing o’er the lip; 
Clean runs the thread; if not, ’tis thrown away, 
Or kept to tie up nonsense for a song.

Know’st thou, Lorenzo! what a friend contains? 
As bees mix’d nectar draw from fragrant flowers, 
So men from friendship, wisdom and delight; 
Twins tied by Nature, if they part, they die. 
Hast thou no friend to set thy mind abroach? 
Good sense will stagnate. Thoughts shut up, want air, 
And spoil, like bales unopen’d to the sun. 
Had thought been all, sweet speech had been denied; 
Speech, thought’s canal! speech, thought’s criterion too! 
Thought in the mine, may come forth gold, or dross; 
When coin’d in words, we know its real worth."
 
From " Night Thoughts" by Edward Young.

The other day I called on a friend who had a few worries on her plate, ‘thoughts shut up’ began to ‘disentangle passing o’er the lip’. We draw wisdom and delight from friendship because of the trust between us, the safe space we can offer each other, the chance to reflect on a bigger picture of whatever is worrying us.

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14 March: People in their thousands, III.

After the massacre.

To you, my friends, I say: Do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more (cf. Lk 12:4).

Jesus’ words here are bold words. I imagined myself there, at the scene, part of that huge crowd of thousands. I am hungry for Jesus’ truth. How would I have reacted to his words? Sure, I would have liked well enough being included among those whom Jesus calls his ‘friends’. But I must confess that I would also have felt a subtle resistance to the rest of that sentence, I think. He says, Do not be afraid of those who kill the body, but after that can do no more. I don’t think I would have wanted to hear about killing and being killed.

But Jesus, in this passage, is determined to challenge us, and to make his audience face the deepest of mysteries. He is going straight for what we most fear, straight for the most horrific thing we can imagine: our death. The very subject of death touches the rawest of raw nerves. In the face of death, if we are honest about our feelings, our sense of bewilderment, horror, loss, grief, disorientation, fear and even injustice and outrage surfaces – usually overwhelmingly. And this is the subject Jesus raises. Then, with simplicity, and without a hint of melodrama, he says that we have no reason to fear death, or to fear those who, out of malice, may cause our death. Recall: there are thousands listening to this speech. He wants everybody to know.

Why is Jesus talking about death? It now comes home to me that he does this because he alone, as Son of the Living God, is the only human being – ever – with authoritative knowledge of death. His teaching about death, therefore, is an integral part of his mission – it is his mission. It is even the Good News. Jesus is, I realise with a new clarity, about death. Or that’s one way of looking at it. Granted, perhaps it is far better to say it the other way round: that Jesus is about eternal life. But this way of putting it is extremely difficult to maintain at every moment of our existence because eternal life can only be fully experienced once we have died. And dying, despite everything Jesus teaches, looks exactly the same as it ever did. Moreover, the human species, by God’s design, is hard-wired to perpetuate its existence on earth; it therefore has a God-given, spontaneous recoil from death in the workings of every human instinct, appetite, and mental process.

But Jesus cannot NOT talk about death to us – not only because he knows that he will be put to death, but most importantly because death is our most fearsome enemy. He must tell us what he knows to be true about death. And he must give the example. How? By speaking the truth, even if it enrages the religious establishment to the point of wanting to kill him. And then by going courageously toward his own death on the Cross.

What are my personal feelings now as I ponder this episode from Luke? I am lingering over the idea of Jesus’ authoritative knowledge of death, trying to trust it. I want to trust it, but it is hard. My brain keeps thinking of arguments against this being true. How does he have this knowledge of death? Then I realise that we will never have the full answer to the question of Jesus’ knowledge – of anything. That is not information to which we have any access. Nevertheless, the gospels record that Jesus does know about death. He even foretells both his death and his resurrection long before it happens. We cannot know how he knows, but we can deduce from the things he does and the miracles he works that he is Lord, and that he speaks the truth.

Shall we stop for today, leaving these deep ponderings in the hands of the Holy Spirit, asking that we may be led to a new understanding? We will continue tomorrow.

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6 March, Proverbs 11.1: a just weight is his delight.

scaales
Just and true measurements

Let us continue raising our consciousness this Lent! Our Proverb takes up an idea from yesterday’s prayer from Eastern Vespers.

A false balance is an abomination to the Lord, but a just weight is his delight.” Proverbs 11.1.

This Nineteenth Century kitchen balance was an heirloom from our next-door neighbour, Kay; it would have been interesting to hear the story of how she came to have it! It came with an incomplete set of iron wights, each one marked underneath with a crown and ‘VR’ to tell that they were trustworthy because they had been tested by officials representing Queen Victoria. Grandson Abel and I use them quite often. Abel takes delight in these just weights, because we get good results when we follow a recipe to cook using them –  and I take delight in his delight. A false balance is an abomination to society for obvious reasons. You can read here how Channel Island farmers used big stones chipped down to useful weights to measure produce for sale.

Their old French quintal weights would be no use to Abel and me, and nor would the few pounds and ounces that came with the scales, since he will think in grams and kilos – though his mother and auntie speak about their children’s weights in stones!

Just weights are a form of speaking the truth; the different British, Jersey-French and Metric systems may differ, but by carefully comparing them and using them consistently, we can always get delightful results.

And where Bible texts differ, as in the two versions of the Lord’s Prayer,* we can enjoy carefully and prayerfully puzzling out the differences and so take delight in them.

  • Matthew 6:9-13; Luke 11:2-4.

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3 September, Season of Creation IV: The gift to be simple II.

Today is the feast of Gregory the Great, first pope of that name, who sent Augustine to Canterbury, arriving here in 597. He was inspired to establish the English mission when he came across young Saxons on sale in Rome’s market. Gregory was also a theologian and spiritual writer, here in his book Moralia (XXVIII 47), commenting on the Book of Job (12.4), where Job is answering his critics:

I am one mocked by his friends,
Who called on God, and He answered him,
The just and blameless who is ridiculed.

Window, St Thomas’ church, Canterbury, England.

Worldliness dictates to her followers to seek the high places of honour, to triumph in attaining the vain acquisition of temporal glory; to return manifold the mischiefs that others bring upon us; when the means are with us, to give way to no man’s opposition; when the opportunity of power is lacking, all whatsoever he cannot accomplish in wickedness to represent in the guise of peaceable good nature. 

On the other hand it is the wisdom of the righteous, to pretend nothing in show, to discover the meaning by words; to love the truth as it is, to avoid falsehood; to set forth good deeds for nought, to bear evil more gladly than to do it; to seek no revenging of a wrong, to account opprobrium for the Truth’s sake to be a gain.  But this simplicity of the righteous is ‘laughed to scorn,’ in that the goodness of purity is taken for folly with the wise men of this world.  For doubtless every thing that is done from innocency is accounted foolish by them, and whatever truth sanctions in practice sounds weak to carnal wisdom. 

For what seems worse folly to the world than to shew the mind by the words, to feign nothing by crafty contrivance, to return no abuse for wrong, to pray for them that speak evil of us, to seek after poverty, to forsake our possessions, not to resist him that is robbing us, to offer the other cheek to one that strikes us? 

Much of this passage could serve as a manifesto for Agnellus’ Mirror and for the Season of Creation:

It is the wisdom of the righteous, to pretend nothing in show, to discover the meaning by words; to love the truth as it is, to avoid falsehood; to set forth good deeds for nought.

We hope we live up to that, in the blog and in daily life.

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