Tag Archives: work

28 September: Season of Creation, Little we see.

Two hundred years ago and more, Wordsworth witnessed some of the early stages of the Industrial Revolution and did not look favourably upon it. There is prophecy in this sonnet: ‘we are out of tune’ indeed with nature because we are too busy getting and spending. Looking at today’s society, it is often poor people in this country and overseas who are forced to lay waste their powers, that is to work till they can do no more in order to get enough money to spend on essentials.

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
  Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers:
  Little we see in nature that is ours;
  We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
  This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
  The Winds that will be howling at all hours
  And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
  For this, for every thing, we are out of tune;
  It moves us not—Great God! I’d rather be
  A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
  So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
  Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
  Have sight of Proteus coming from the sea;
  Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn.”

(from “Poems in Two Volumes, Volume 1” by William Wordsworth, 1807)

Let’s get ourselves in tune with winds, rain, sunshine and moonshine. A moonlit walk along the beach would surely move us, or a stroll in the park: even half an hour out of doors or sitting at the window. I was heartened, when in hospital, by the comings and goings of a crow who appeared from time to time over a blank brick wall which was all my view!

If we were in tune with nature there would be expansion of the rain forests, pollution control measures would actually work, concrete would start to be replaced. We could all add to the list. But let’s do what we can today, and a little more tomorrow.

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21 September: Matthew’s call, IV.

One way, no looking back!


I feel that this lectio period is reaching its end. If you are just joining this blog today, I hope you will scroll back three days to the beginning of these posts and catch up with our reflection on Matthew’s call. This post will be asking what Matthew’s response to Jesus’ call teaches.

Matthew has emerged in an entirely new light for me through this lectio experience. He didn’t have much personality for me before; now I see him as a dynamic man, capable of great insight and of quickly understanding the core truth in a situation. I see that he grasped the fact that this invitation from Jesus was not going to be offered twice. He grasped that the opportunity to associate himself with Jesus was more important than anything else. Matthew saw that to fail to respond to the invitation issued by Jesus would be to consign himself to the deepest misery. It would mean losing Jesus, letting him pass right out of his life. This, Matthew realises instantly, was unthinkable – it would be tragedy. I see that Matthew wants Jesus to lead. He starts off in his discipleship seeing Jesus’ back and he knows he must keep it in view – the metaphor perhaps for all the unknowns which are an integral part of the experience of every disciple of Jesus.

What else has happened here? I turn to my own life and look into my heart. I am struck anew by the fact that it’s important not to play with Jesus. Matthew doesn’t. Jesus’ invitation to Matthew and the way Jesus handles the entire encounter show clearly that when he calls, it is not a game. It is the privilege of a lifetime. Matthew saw this. Jesus will not tolerate shilly-shallying; he is God, and he expects a life-commitment.

As I look at my life now, I realise again that each day my discipleship will be tested. Am I really ready to drop whatever I’m doing, leave whatever Jesus asks me to leave today, and put my whole heart into following him, without looking back? I see that I cannot rest on yesterday’s good deeds (if there were any) or skate along on yesterday’s momentum. Every day I must push off afresh, keeping Jesus’ ‘back’ in view – or, in other words, accepting all the unknowns that exist in my life with him. Every day I must be like Matthew. And the alternative? The alternative is to lose Jesus, to see his back receding into the distance. He moves quickly.

I return to the thought with which I opened this reflection. Matthew was sitting down in the beginning of the story. But now? He is hurrying along the road, following Jesus. He is never pictured in the gospel as sitting down again. And I realise that discipleship is simply not a sit-down job. Not for Matthew, not for me. Oh, sure – we’re talking metaphor now, and not body language. The Lord may ask one to spend time at a desk job working for the kingdom. But on the most fundamental level, the disciple is always rising up from the inertia of the past – even if the past is only yesterday – the true disciple is always moving quickly to obey the Lord, ready to respond to the Lord’s exciting invitation, “Follow me” – today.

Thank you, Sister Johanna! It’s been good to spend these four days with you and Matthew. Thank you especially for encouraging us to listen out for our call, and to be ready to follow Jesus, today!


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20 September: Matthew’s call, III

A hand of welcome or of exclusion – most people reject him, but what is Jesus saying to Matthew? We continue with Sister Johanna’s reflection on the calling of Matthew.

And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew got up and followed him. (See Matthew 9:9).

Jesus’ sure-footedness here takes my breath away. What a thrilling moment in Matthew’s life. I find myself entering into Matthew’s thoughts, seeing him in my imagination. He’s not adding up figures; he is sitting absolutely still. He’s just heard Jesus speak to him. Jesus said, “Follow me.” Matthew suddenly has a huge amount of emotion to process in no time at all. His head’s in a whirl. Matthew, the despised tax collector, finds that Jesus – this radiantly good and kind man – has noticed him, really seen him, even ‘read’ him.

Matthew feels confused and flustered by this affirmation – he’s not used to it. People rarely even look at him, and now this! From a holy man! He doesn’t quite know what to think. He habitually kept his defences up in order to shield himself from the hostility that was directed against him every working day of his life, but now, this Jesus actually wanted Matthew to be around. Most people couldn’t see too little of Matthew, but Jesus had just said, “Follow me.” ‘Follow him where?’ Matthew thinks. ‘Why? To do what? Nothing is adding up,’ Matthew thinks. But then, in an overwhelming flash of insight in which he sees his entire life in an utterly new way, he realises that things don’t have to ‘add up’ anymore – and Jesus was getting away! Jesus was walking down the road. Hurry, Matthew! Matthew rises from his seat, he stands. He walks, he runs – runs right out of his hated tax office and races down the street following Jesus.

And Jesus? Jesus’ methods are always surprising. Here, Jesus actually gives Matthew an instant ‘open door’ into discipleship. Jesus does not coddle, coax, explain or make lavish promises, but he wastes no time in realising his plans. He says ‘Follow me,’ and then he gives Matthew himself to follow. He turns. He walks. What was important for Jesus was to determine whether Matthew could really leave his chains. Any hesitation on Matthew’s part would have signalled an addiction to his sad situation, a perverse liking for its misery and loneliness – perhaps because of the pseudo-importance it conferred. And Matthew comes through the test brilliantly. He was ready. He follows as soon as he can scramble through the doorway. He becomes a disciple. Nowhere in the New Testament is it suggested that Matthew ever looks back.

Tomorrow, we’ll see what conclusions we can draw from these reflections.

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19 September: Matthew’s call, Part II.

The taxman is needed in civil society. These tokens were issued by German cities between the two World Wars. Money had lost its value and something had to be done to allow people to buy and sell and the city councils to provide the services they needed. We continue reading Sister Johanna’s reflection on the calling of Matthew the taxman.


And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew got up and followed him.
(See Matthew 9:9).

Something must have been going on in Matthew’s head that day that was different, that prepared him for Jesus’ summons. Maybe he wasn’t as preoccupied as he seemed to be. We’re not told what was in his mind, but I continue to reflect on the short text from Matthew 9:9.

We can assume that tax collectors were part of a crowd that could be generally relied upon to be cynically dismissive of Jesus – this idealistic rabbi who talked about a ‘kingdom’ of his own and travelled around with a group of scruffy, uneducated men. But Matthew was different – or at least, he had the potential to be different, and Jesus saw this. What did Jesus see in Matthew? Looking at Matthew from the outside, as it were, and objectively, anyone might have seen a capable man who was good with numbers. Matthew was, most likely, rather dishonest in the way most tax collectors were dishonest – raising the tax fees in order to skim off the extra for himself. But, with unerring judgement, Jesus intuited that this man, Matthew – Levi, as he was known at the time – wasn’t just a hard-boiled money-grabber. He was inwardly ready for precisely the summons he received. How do we know? We don’t know yet, if we are taking this story step by step. But in a few minutes we will see something astonishing. Let’s wait for it, asking the Holy Spirit to inspire our imagination. Jesus is just coming up to the tax office now.

Jesus knows that Matthew’s professional life did not make a promising statement about Matthew’s personal qualities, but Jesus tells us in precisely this context (see Mt.9:12-13) that he came for people like Matthew – the ‘sick’, who needed the doctor. Jesus also knows the power of his own personality to bring about a change of heart in those who are truly ready to surrender themselves to him. There is no false modesty in Jesus. Again and again Jesus offers himself – he knows who he is, knows that he himself is the pearl of great price. He knows he is the Son, the Son of God and very God. Jesus sees what is good in Matthew.

Let’s come back to Matthew. It’s quite possible that Matthew hated his job. But did he have an exit route? That is highly doubtful. No one liked tax collectors or trusted them Even if he quit his job, who else would have hired him? Matthew was trapped in a trap of his own devising. But is that all? Surely, there were a lot of trapped people around then, just as there are a lot of trapped people around now. Jesus didn’t call them. He called Matthew. Why? Matthew’s unique readiness must have been apparent to Jesus, even though it was almost certainly hidden from everyone else.

I’m beginning to answer my question as to Matthew’s back-story – at least to some extent. Matthew was ready for change, fed up to the back-teeth with his life. But let’s think: don’t we all know people who spend their life complaining about their situation and looking woebegone, but should the opportunity to make a change for the better actually be given to them, suddenly they are eloquent with excuses. In fact, such people love their chains and cannot handle freedom and its responsibilities. Jesus wanted to give Matthew the chance to show that he was emphatically not one of those.


Now, Jesus is standing there in front of Matthew. By the power of his mere presence, he gains Matthew’s attention. Matthew looks up from his task of adding columns of figures. He’s looking at Jesus now, waiting for what Jesus will say. Jesus utters the famous words, “Follow me.” Let’s watch. The text indicates that Jesus, after issuing his invitation to Matthew, does not hang around to chat or talk him into the idea. He is abrupt. (Even Peter had been given a small sales pitch by Jesus: “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men”.) Jesus doesn’t even call Matthew by name. Or not yet. By implication, we can be pretty sure that what Jesus does next is turn and begin to walk, giving Matthew the perfect view of his back.


Let’s leave Matthew here till tomorrow. If you had been in his place, what would you have thought?

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18 September: Matthew’s Call I.


We now have a little series of four reflections from Sister Johanna of Minster Abbey, this time on Jesus’ calling of Matthew the tax collector. It is his feastday at the end.

The picture shows two of the tools of the trade. They were brought home by a retiring taxman in England. By the time he retired, IT had replaced flimsy paper and Stationery Office wooden rulers, he dug them out from the bottom of the drawer and brought them home. Over to you, Sister!

And Jesus said to him, “Follow me.” And Matthew got up and followed him. (See Matthew 9:9).

The writers of the synoptic Gospels rarely relate the same episode in the same way. One notable exception is the account of the calling of Matthew. The three synoptic writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke, all tell the story in the briefest way possible. Jesus just turned up at Matthew’s tax office one day, said two words, “Follow me,” (or the Aramaic equivalent) and Matthew did. Immediately.

We know this text so well that its power to astonish us may have worn off. I, in fact, have always found this text a bit skimpy on description, rather un-dramatic and a little flat. I want to know more about the back-story, about Matthew’s state of mind on that day. Consequently, I probably haven’t given the story enough of a chance to talk to me. So I resolve today to slow way down and try to look at this text as though I’ve never seen it before. This is what lectio divina is about: diving down into a text’s deep pool and, through the grace of the Holy Spirit at work, both within the text and within my mind and heart, finding the story’s hidden meaning – and, yes, even its drama. The exercise never disappoints me. I begin, asking for the Holy Spirit’s guidance.

The first thing I notice, then, is that Matthew, the tax collector was “sitting” in the tax office. We don’t usually get descriptions of body-language in the New Testament, but a quick flip through the pages of my New Testament confirms what I suspected: in all three synoptic gospels, Matthew’s physical position is given. It must be important I think, but why? Who cares that Mathew’s sitting down?

As I pray about this seemingly insignificant detail, it occurs to me that a sitting person is not only stationary but apt to be quite engaged on the interior level – more so, anyway, than when charging around busily, focusing on accomplishing tasks. Matthew was sitting because his work usually required it; he’d have been at a desk or table, writing, counting money, adding up columns of figures, absorbed in his intellectual work. He was occupied, even preoccupied – presumably not in the mood for a spiritual event of life-changing proportions. He was also doing things that would have been distasteful to a decent human being. Was he a decent human being? Many of the townspeople would have denied it roundly. He was, after all, taking the tax money from his own people who could ill afford to pay it, pocketing a certain percentage of the proceeds, giving the rest to the Romans, and, even more scandalously, turning the screws on those who did not, or could not, pay. But it was part of the job; he had to do it and he did do it. I see him now, sitting, head down, counting, adding up, writing, not making eye contact with anyone, not smiling, brow furrowed in concentration.

I wonder what this was like for Matthew. Matthew was a Jew in the employment of the Romans – the occupying political power. He, like all the Jews, was in a difficult situation. Matthew, however, had figured out how to manipulate the situation to his financial advantage. But at what emotional and social price? Of what use to him, he may well have wondered, was his financial security when he had no friends? For any friend of the Romans, anyone who voluntarily did their dirty business for them – and particularly, any Jew who did the Romans’ dirty business – was doubly scorned by the other Jews. Matthew was a traitor. No one liked the tax collectors. In Matthew’s case, he was probably intensely hated. But this was a normal working day for Matthew, differing little from every other working day. He was sitting down, adding up figures, getting on with it. Or was it really a normal day for him?

Those who’ve read my posts before know I’m apt to leave certain things dangling for twenty-four hours so that the reader has time to pray over the text and perhaps ask questions of the Holy Spirit. I hope you will come back tomorrow for the continuation of our meditation.

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15 September: Familial sacrifices, Our Lady of Sorrows.

from CD.

Good Morning! We make a big mistake if we say that the sacrifice of Christ was what happened on Calvary Hill and leave it at that. As Rowan Williams said, he lived a life-long passion. A passion caught from his parents, Mary and Joseph.

We know that Jesus suffered hardship on the road, but he kept going. As an infant seeking emergency refuge in Egypt, he still had what he most needed, the intimate love of Mary and Joseph. As an adult itinerant preacher, the Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head.

As an infant he went where his parents chose in order to preserve his life, while for his sake they accepted exile, anxiety, pain, and a double dose of the exhaustion that every new parent knows. No doubt the magi’s gold ran out soon enough, spent on wayside inns, renting a place in Cairo, buying new tools for Joseph. Meagre rations until Joseph had an income.

Every parent can relate to these sacrifices, though many would not recognise their own daily grind as sacrificial, but it is a grind at times, and so it was for the Holy Family too. For some of us exile is leaving, if only for a while, an enjoyable job with interesting and funny colleagues and customers. It is a sacrifice, as is accepting the waves of tiredness, boredom, loneliness, depression that can knock a new father as well as a mother off-balance.

Jesus learned about sacrifice from the sacrificial love of his parents. They prepared him to be about his Father’s business even if they did not realise what it meant in practice to a 12 year old boy, let alone the man he grew into.

And a sword will pierce your heart.

Let it be done to me according to your word.

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7 September, Going Viral CVIII: The universe disturbed.

Brother Guy Consolmagno was meant to be addressing an astronomy conference recently, but a mild case of covid meant that he had to do so remotely, though he’d already arrived in Scotland, ready, or so he thought, to speak about meteorites. He reflects on his experience: (follow the link for the full text).

I’ve lost track of how many Covid “waves” this has been, but unlike the last waves there has been no uptick in deaths this time. Still, it’s no fun having your travel plans disturbed by disease, even after you’ve taken all the recommended precautions.

Some forty-plus years ago, the brilliant engineer Freeman Dyson wrote a book called Disturbing the Universe and the title alone would make it memorable. (The rest of the book’s pretty good, too.) Each of us has had to endure having our universes disturbed, by causes big or small. And each of us in turn disturbs the universe as well. We can’t help but poke and prod… sometimes with spacecraft, sometimes with prayer. It’s a universe that was created to be disturbed.

Thanks for your continued prayers and support, and know that you also have mine!
Br. Guy Consolmagno

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18 August: Going Viral CVII: a non-renewable resource

We have not all sailed through the pandemic without hurt, illness and loss. These words from Fr Brian D’Arcy offer a chance to reflect on our recent experience and on what comes next in our lives, the decisions we are making day by day.

Time is a non-renewable resource; so, we should spend it wisely by keeping life in a proper perspective. It means making choices about what is essential and what is not.

Covid gave many of us a renewed sense of our own mortality. It made the possibility of death undeniable. It is one of the contradictions of our culture that we do everything in our power to deny our own mortality; yet by denying death we actually give it increased power over us.

As we continue to integrate the lessons Covid taught us, we’ll acknowledge our mortality in wise and healthy ways. We need to give death its rightful place – and there’s nothing morbid about that. It helps us to be aware of how fleeting life is. It makes us more grateful every day for the precious time we have and it makes me humbler about the things I might have achieved.  Since I now know my life is brief I ought to reflect long and hard on what I do with it. How I spend my hours determines how I spend my days and how I spend my days is how I spend my life.

So let us reflect together in prayer:

Lord, help me to use the gift of time wisely. “What is life?” St James asks, “For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:15). Guide me to spend less time on social media and more time seeking your truth; less time chasing success and more time seeking your peace.

May I see each day as a special gift from you. I do not know what tomorrow will bring but with your help and guidance, I will become humbler, gentler and more compassionate. Hear and answer this prayer Lord, in your own time.  AMEN

For full script visit this link.

Photo by HDGB

 

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13 August: Saint Radigund

Image of Engraving of St Radegund

 Saint Radigund’s story – she died in 587 – has parallels with Saint Mildred, who died in 768. At a time when women were seen as the possessions of men, second class beings, they stood out for women to be making their own decisions, and living the lives God was calling them to.

In this woodcut, Radigund has put her crown to one side and is studying scripture. Radigund or Radegund was a princess forced into marriage by the Frankish King Chlotar, who had taken her after a battle as his sixth wife. When he had her brother murdered she fled to the bishop of Noyon who helped her establish a monastery, where the sisters had to read and write as well as work at weaving and embroidery.

L’Arche Kent have their workshop on Saint Radigund Street, Canterbury, where weaving and candle-making are carried out, both monastic activities. Saint Radegund is one of the patrons of Jesus College, university of Cambridge. Let’s pray for both of them.

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11 August: Feast of Saint Clare; Pope Francis meets the Poor Clares

Pope Francis visited the Poor Clares, the Franciscan enclosed sisters, in Assisi on the World Day of the Poor, 19 November 2021. The report below is from Vatican News; we can gain some understanding of the contemplative calling, but also a few challenges for our own lives. Happy Feast Day!

Pope Francis asked the Franciscan nuns to pray for the Church so that it may not be corrupted by sin, calling on them to be attentive contemplatives. Pope Francis said attentiveness to the Lord requires having peace of mind, serenity of the heart and serenity of the hands, lest we miss Him when He passes by. It is not watching the world pass by and chatting from a window, but being aware of what is going on with a pure mind, thinking well and not badly of people, he remarked.A “serene heart” implies going back in memory to the origin of religious vocation, to the reason of God’s call, to love and let ourselves be loved.

There is also the serenity of the hands: hands must move not only to pray, but also “to work,” Pope Francis said, recalling St. Paul’s words in his Letter to the Thessalonians: “Whoever does not work, must not eat”.

When mind, heart and hands do what they have to do, consecrated people may find a balance which is “full of love and passion”, making it easy not to miss what the Lord tells us when He passes by.

He pointed to the core of the Poor Clares’ contemplative work: “You carry on your shoulders the problems of the Church, the pains of the Church and also – I dare say – the sins of the Church, our sins, the sins of the bishops, we are all sinful bishops; the sins of the priests; the sins of consecrated souls … And bring them before the Lord”.

The real danger in the Church is not being a sinner, but allowing oneself to be corrupted by sin, to the point of seeing sin as “a normal attitude” and not feeling the need to ask for God’s forgiveness. Pope Francis therefore called on the cloistered nuns to pray that corruption might not affect the Church, stressing that God “only asks our humility to ask for forgiveness.”

Concluding his speech, Pope Francis asked the Poor Clares to think and pray for the elderly, who are often considered “disposable”, for those families struggling to make ends meet so they can bring up their children well, and for young people and children exposed to so many threats and dangers in today’s world.

Finally he asked them to pray for the Church, in particular for priests and bishops so they consider themselves pastors and not “heads of office”.

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