Tag Archives: Works of Mercy

November 3, Jesus Beyond Dogma II: iii – ‘We are not called to sit back and watch it happen’

reader (640x608)

Zakopane, Poland

Living Kingdom values creates true worship of God – God is praised when we are fully alive – Irenaeus. Jesus’ perfect human life, because it is the human life of God’s Word cannot be assailed by death. As the liturgy tells us, for anyone freely sharing such values life is changed, not ended. With the assurance of his promise to all who follow him – when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw you to myself – John 12.32.

Creation has reached its peak in the Word made Flesh: God wanted all perfection to be found in him – Colossians1.19. In him we have goodness made flesh – the way made flesh – Jesus didn’t say I know the way… he said I am the way – be with me and know the way. All that will be left behind is whatever is incapable of surviving death: selfishness, jealousy, envy and every kind of exclusion – he who does not love remains in death – 1John 3.14.

This, however, is not a passive experience, we are not called to sit back and watch it happen. Surely it is total gift, freely given to anyone – literally anyone – willing to receive it; but it is also a challenge, a task: if anyone wants to accept this way, renounce self, take up your cross and join me – Mark 8.34. This is not charades – not mimicry, how he looked and what he wore are irrelevant, what matters is to be as enthusiastic as he was to help others – feed the hungry, heal the sick, visit the imprisoned.

Paul hardly ever refers to what we call the life of Christ. For him Jesus is always the risen Lord. That I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, that by any means possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead – Philippians 3.10. I have said this to you, so that in me you may have peace. In the world you face persecution. But take courage; I have conquered the world – John 16.33.

There is an element of struggle here in words like overcome. There are elements in us which shout we do not want this man to reign over us – Luke 19.14, we have a choice to make. Because the Kingdom has come a radical change is needed: The time has come, the Kingdom is at hand – repent – Mark 1.15. God has established the Kingdom, yet I am free to say I will not serve.

AMcC

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

August 24: An unexpected challenge.

gate,broken (800x487)

Towards the end of last school term, my 13 year-old god-daughter Rose set me the question,

What are the challenges facing religious people today?

A challenge in itself. Here is my brief answer. Now what would you add  from your personal experience?

Maurice.

Hello Rose! I’m delighted to help with your RE homework. As you well know,  I’m a 67 year-old married Catholic with four grown-up children and one grandson. I am, of course, also a godfather to you and your younger sister.

I take it that by religious you mean someone who believes in what the Creeds say and attends church: that description fits me. I’m comfortable with that.

For the last 20 plus years I have worked as a tutor to children and young people who don’t attend school, usually because their behaviour has been dangerous to others – bullying and aggression – or else because they have not been learning and have made it difficult for other people to learn – or teach, or because of a particular set of needs, such as autism.

This often brings me to homes that are chaotic, often filthy, usually loving, sometimes neglectful. Parents and other adults may abuse drugs; they may also abuse their children verbally, physically, even sexually.

So I have dilemmas that would be the same for any other professional working with these people. For example:

  • Is it part of my job to get pupils out of bed when they don’t come to lessons (their phones are usually on silent at 9.00 in the morning).
  • Do I quietly help the parents in little ways, such as giving one family the bed Harry had grown out of, or a packet of tea bags – strictly speaking not allowed.
  • What steps do I take if I think my pupil’s dad beat him up? Even if the boy says he walked into the kitchen door?

But there are other challenges that arise because I’m religious:

  • Do I keep quiet about being religious? Or more accurately, how openly do I claim to be a Catholic at work? When working with other Catholics it is a help. Others may need answers to questions like, ‘Is God going to be angry with me because I did so-and-so? Why did Nan die so young (I could only start from telling the boy what he already knew: she smoked too much.)
  • How much confidentiality is appropriate? – the Father Confessor problem! Example: a year 11 pupil gets a job in a chip shop. Strictly illegal, but not hurting anyone else, and she soon realises that she is being exploited and packs it in. A boy in year 9 was working in Scrap Metal; illegal on any number of accounts: age, no gloves, no safety boots, slave wages and more. I did not want him in trouble, nor his mother, so she and I spoke seriously to him and showed him that he could get her into far more trouble that the measly pay was worth. No more needed to be done in that case but I would have had to put friendship on the line if he hadn’t dropped the scrap dealing. Good job, as the police were soon onto his ‘employer’ who went to prison.

I hope this gives you a taste of the challenges I, as a religious person, can face at work.

Your loving Godfather,

Maurice.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

July 4, readings from Mary Webb, III: Feel the Zest.

grow.wild (800x664)

When participation in man’s keen life is denied, it is not strange if laughter dies. In the sirocco of pain it is not surprising if joy and faith are carried away.

So many sit by the wayside begging, unconscious that the great Giver is continually passing down the highways and hedges of nature, where each weed is wonderful. So many are blind and hopeless, yet they have only to desire vision, and they will see that through His coming the thickets are quickened into leaf and touched with glory.

samaritanwoman

Out in this world the spirit that was so desolate, lost in the strange atmosphere of physical inferiority, may once more feel the zest that he thought was gone for ever. And this zest is health: sweeping into the mind and into those recesses of being beyond the conscious self, it overflows into the body. Very often this great rush of joy, this drinking of the freshets of the divine, brings back perfect health. Even in diseases that are at present called incurable, and that are purely physical, no one will deny the immense alleviation resulting from this new life.

Zest – the grated rind of lemon or orange – is a small ingredient with a big punch. Let’s use our imaginations when our friends are ill. A letter can be put by till they are ready to read it, but it may be read many times; a picture postcard can be propped by the bedside; a visit of a few minutes may bring a rush of joy; as might sitting outside with a friend. Mary Webb had been there, and her disease was called incurable.

1 Comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Laudato si'

June 9: Justice V: The Fruits of Justice

 serre eyraud

Because ‘the object of justice is to keep men together in society and mutual intercourse’, as St. Thomas Aquinas says, then when justice succeeds the result must surely be that society enjoys the blessing of peace. And on the personal level, holiness must be one of the fruits of this virtue. There is even an element of voluntary self-sacrifice in the virtue of justice, according to St. Thomas. He says justice ‘disregards its own profit in order to preserve the common equity’ (Q 58:11).

Perhaps one wouldn’t expect ‘justice to ‘disregard its own profit’. Doesn’t self-sacrifice go beyond justice? Wouldn’t it make more sense to place sacrifice under the virtue of charity, maybe? But, no. Not in St. Thomas’s thinking. For him, since justice deals with the rights of others, all the virtues pertaining to life with others are part of justice and enable one to exercise justice. So kindness, mercy, liberality, succouring the needy and so on are all ascribed to justice. The good person is above all the just person, says Josef Pieper, commenting on St. Thomas. ‘Justice reaches out beyond the individual subject’, he says, in order to ‘pour itself out, to work outside itself, to be shared with others, to shine forth. A thing is more eminently good the more fully and widely it radiates its goodness’ (see Josef Pieper’s book, The Four Cardinal Virtues, part 2:3). Yet, we were not wrong in seeing the close connection between the outpouring of justice and the outpouring of charity. The Catechism underlines this in the remark, ‘It is characteristic of love to think of the one whom we love’ (no. 2804). It is likewise characteristic of justice to think of the other, whom we love.

SJC.

Photo MMB, 1970, Le Melezin, Serre Eyraud.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

5 February: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A. Let it shine!

 

5th-sunday-a

Today, God is teaching me that an effective way to deal with the causes of sin in myself is to do good.

If I turn towards others and set about serving their needs instead of punishing or controlling them:

‘Then will your light shine like the dawn and your wound be quickly healed over.’                                                                                                                    (Isaiah 58:8)

What is negative in me will be shone away without my having to focus on it, as light naturally dispels darkness:

‘your light will rise in the darkness and your shadows become like noon.’                                                                                                                                                                       (Isaiah 58:10)

As St. Bonaventure taught, ‘Goodness diffuses itself’.  In other words, it is the nature of goodness to spread itself around.  The Book of Genesis, Chapter One tells us that everything God created is good, including humans.  This means it is our nature to share with the rest of creation all that we are and have by divine gift.  Jesus’ illustrates this truth with the examples of salt and light (Matthew 5:13-16).  It is the nature of light to illuminate the space around it and the nature of salt to flavour the food to which it is added.  Light which is completely covered over and salt which is tasteless are useless, absurd and unnatural. So am I, when I am self-centred and lacking generosity.  But whenever I act with love, God’s light dispels my shadows.

And here is a link to an ideal soundtrack for this Sunday’s Gospel reading and blog post. 

FMSL

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

18 November, Mercy: Love gives to every power a double power

valencia.mary

Bishop John Jukes OFM, when he preached to the children at St Thomas’s Church Canterbury, asked them did baby Jesus have fingernails? He wanted to impress on them that Jesus was truly human, dependent on his mother at a young age.

‘Instructing the ignorant’ is one of the Spiritual Works of Mercy. If Jesus was truly human, Mary and Joseph must have instructed him. He was called the carpenter’s son (Matthew 13:55) and the carpenter (Mark 6:3). It would be wrong to imagine that he just knew what to do without being taught!

He also had to learn how to love, though like any baby he came into this world with every faculty needed to be able to. Look how the artist has made Mary watch her son while he brims with confidence as he blesses the pilgrims to Valencia Cathedral. A Son of God who did not love us would be terrible indeed. Instead he loves:

But love, first learnèd in a lady’s eyes,
Lives not alone immurèd in the brain,
But, with the motion of all elements,
Courses as swift as thought in every power,
And gives to every power a double power,
Above their functions and their offices.

Love’s Labours Lost 4.3

Look again at the statue: see the little photos within the folds? Women present themselves here, before the eyes, as it were, of Mary and Jesus, to ask for help in conceiving, or for the health of their children. Perhaps a mother’s eyes, looking upon Jesus and his mother, absorb blessings to give their power a double power: absorb the love of the Madonna and child, and she can  run with doubled power to her own child.

Pray for all mothers, may they always find the strength and power their children need.

MMB.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, poetry, Year of Mercy

14 November: Another Polish Door of Mercy

mercydoorkrakow

As we entered this Door of Mercy at Krakow Cathedral, we found ourselves processing, or at least moving at a processional speed, pressed in on every side. It seemed that half of Poland was there, visiting the national shrine, site of royal coronations, resting place of saints, Poland’s Westminster Abbey.

Is a royal shrine the place to look for mercy? This Church is a baroque fantasia: silver, gold, marble wherever you turn. Where could I sit quietly to pray, as I can do in Canterbury Cathedral crypt?

Later I noticed this inscription along the external wall below a golden dome:

non nobis2

NON-NOBIS-DOMINE-NON-NOBIS-SED-NOMINI-Tuo.

This comes from Psalm 115:9:

 At the presence of the Lord the earth was moved, at the presence of the God of Jacob:

Who turned the rock into pools of water, and the stony hill into fountains of waters.

Not to us, O Lord, not to us; but to thy name give glory.

 For thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake: lest the gentiles should say: Where is their God?

But our God is in heaven: he hath done all things whatsoever he would.

The idols of the gentiles are silver and gold, the works of the hands of men.

They have mouths and speak not: they have eyes and see not.

They have ears and hear not: they have noses and smell not.

They have hands and feel not: they have feet and walk not: neither shall they cry out through their throat.

Let them that make them become like unto them: and all such as trust in them.

Puzzle this out: Glorify your name for the sake of your mercy – or for Israel to earn the respect of the gentiles? Would we not be better channels of mercy if we were humbler than that?

mercy.carving. (328x640)And Yet.

Saint Jadwiga, a young Queen of Poland buried within  this church, was called the spiritual mother of the poor, weak and ill: where she has passed is therefore a Door of Mercy. We can learn mercy from her, getting alongside the poor, weak and ill.  And that is half an answer to the conundrum; do what we can, where we are. And ‘non nobis, Domine’ indeed!

MMB.

 

1 Comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Year of Mercy

July 7; Relics V: mumbo-jumbo with bones?

gravecheriton1 (800x713)

To bury the dead is one of the corporal works of mercy. Folkestone Cemetery, MMB.

As I said yesterday, I’m not the only one a little ill at ease with the esteem shown to relics, though I see Monsignor Knox’s point about their being a link to the Church Universal in time, space and eternity. (see Monday’s post.)

Interestingly, a friend was talking to my wife and me about ‘mumbo-jumbo with bones’, referring to the ceremonies, mentioned yesterday, that took place with Thomas’s elbow;  preferring what he would probably call practical Christianity, and the Church would call the corporal works of mercy. One of these, of course, is to bury the dead.

This friend, just a few months ago, had gone to a great deal of time, trouble and expense to arrange for the ashes of a deceased relative to be brought from overseas and decently interred within the family plot, surrounded by her living relatives; all in a remote part of a county remote indeed from Kent.

Bringing Thomas home to Canterbury, even for a night or two, is very much akin to that.

Saint Thomas of Canterbury:                  pray for us.

Saint Mildred of Minster Abbey:            pray for us.

Saint Eanswythe:                                        pray for us.

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections

Saturday 25th June: Mercy: fruit of brokenness

Saturday 25th (800x489)

FMSL

Mercymercylogo is the fruit of brokenness in our lives. Fruit comes out of broken ground. Jesus’ body was completely broken on the Cross and when his heart was pierced there sprung the fountain of divine mercy. Mercy is the fruit of emptying oneself. Unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone, but if it dies then it yields a mighty harvest (Jn. 12:24). In our life too we need to acknowledge our brokenness, weakness, vulnerability and nothingness before God.  This awareness creates in our heart a desire to die to oneself and opens our inner eye to see the brokenness of others.  Mercy is a free gift from God. Jesus said: ‘Be merciful as your Heavenly Father is merciful’ (Luke 6:36).

In the Beatitudes Jesus says ‘Blessed are those who are merciful, they will receive mercy’ (Matthew 5:7).  To receive the gift of mercy requires surrendering of our brokenness to God. This gift will help us to accept others as they are, without judgement. In this way, we become instruments of God’s compassion and mercy.

So, let us place our weaknesses, struggles and vulnerabilities under the blessing of God’s mercy, who tells us: ‘you are very good’ (Genesis 1:31) and ‘you are my beloved son/daughter. On you my favour rests’ (Mark 3:17), and let us say with the psalmist ‘I thank you for the wonder of my being’ (Psalm 139). Then our brokenness becomes a blessing for us and for others.  We are blessings to each other when we remember that God’s favour rests on each one of us.

 

FMSL

1 Comment

Filed under Daily Reflections, Year of Mercy

Saturday 13th February: Follow the divine physician!

open hand

Isaiah 59: 9b-14; Psalm 83; Luke 5: 27-32.

 

mercylogoToday is the fourth day of our forty-day journey through the wilderness of Lent. Today, the prophet Isaiah tells us that God repays each one in kind. When we bless others, especially those who have spiritual, physical and material needs, God in turn blesses us.

When the Pharisees challenge Jesus’ behaviour in eating with public sinners, Jesus’ defence is very simple. A doctor doesn’t treat the healthy, but the sick. A true physician seeks the healing of the whole person- body, mind and spirit. Every one of us is sick in our own way, so Jesus is here for us. What are we waiting for? Let us go to Him as broken and fragile as we are for He will make us whole. Jesus came as a divine physician and as a good shepherd to care for us and restore us through Him to the Father.

St. Paul says all have sinned and fall short of God’s glory (Romans 3:23). We need to thank the Lord for the great mercy that He has shown to us and endeavour to seek the good of all and show them mercy and kindness. If we give our bread to the hungry, and relief to the oppressed then our light will rise in the darkness. The Lord will always guide us and give us relief in desert places. We will be called ”breach-menders”. May we be ready, like Levi, to forsake all things to follow Christ, who calls us every day.

May we receive grace in this Year of Mercy so as to be merciful to ourselves and to our neighbours. May Our Lady Queen of Mercy pray for us. Amen.

FMSL

Leave a comment

Filed under Daily Reflections