Tag Archives: world

13 May. What is Theology Saying? L: Signs of the times open pathways for the Gospel

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austinThe signs of the times cannot simply be material events or objective happenings. Such things, of themselves, do not indicate anything. They prompt a suspicion that things are brewing, it does not take very much to be aware of that. Sadly that is where most people stop. Whereas the real signs are human actions, human responses to challenges posed by these events. Only people can create realities pointing somewhere, through their words, gestures and actions. The “signs of the times” are these gestures which allow the Lord to be present. There will always be a connection between events and signs. St. Paul’s journeys depended on the existence of sea-routes, and the communications system established by the Roman Empire. But a study of these phenomena would not suffice to help us understand what was going on. Only people can be signs. Anthony in the Desert, Benedict, Francis, Gandhi, Martin Luther King… were all signs who were intimately involved with what was going on in their own world. Their sign value lay in the pathways they opened up for the Gospel life to move through them, relevantly, into the world.

If we are simply looking for new ways to win people to the church, all we need do is take note of modern resources on offer. Make use of the variety of ideologies at our disposal. But our task is different. A new Church demands freedom from the accretions and accumulations of time. We need to sweep away whatever makes the Word inaccessible. Just as individuals need to be set free from their past, so too do Institutions which are made up of individuals. We will only realise the need for change when we discover people who are not being reached. Recognising the signs of the times means risking letting go of much of the past. If Jesus had taken all the Jewish traditions on board he would have made many more converts, but nothing would have changed and the truth would have remained “safely” locked up.

Mission is not something extraordinary, it does not require the presence of genius; simply ordinary folk prepared to do ordinary things, extraordinarily well. When we rely over much on system and method we end up transmitting ideology, religion or culture, rather than access to Jesus Christ

AMcC

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12 May. What is Theology Saying? XLIX: Church and World are not mutually exclusive.

 

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With our Lenten season we have set aside our long-running series from Traherne, the Little Flowers of Francis, and from Brother Austin. Let’s remedy that last one! There’s a challenge at the end: ‘I know that I can cope with the past because I am still here! So why risk the unknown?’

austinWe cannot contrast Church and World. They are not mutually exclusive. The Church is supposed to be the community that makes God’s promises already present. When we celebrate the sacraments this is a pledge to what we have committed ourselves as community. There is no work blueprint, we are called to be creative through the possibilities everyday life presents. The Church cannot hand-out a programme to us telling us exactly what to do, how to do it and where. The Bible has no such blueprint. We learn more about the future when we respond to what we already know and are presenting solutions accordingly.

The early Church, seen through Paul’s writing, took slavery for granted as a feature of society – while insisting that the slave-owner respect their human dignity. Centuries later we began to realise that we must abolish slavery itself, because slavery as such is opposed to human dignity. We are also coming to realise that what we often call works of charity can be more crushing than poverty itself, that we can eliminate poverty simply by providing jobs and incomes for all. In the same way war was seen as inevitable, and not only killing but torture was therefore justified. With the formation of the UN we are starting to glimpse that war is not inevitable – Paul VI said to the UN with powerful conviction no more war, war never again.

The truth is that the “signs of the times” are those offering the church ever new opportunities to go out and meet others. Individuals may well set out believing they are going to teach, but they will end up learning, as did Paul. The church is given endless opportunities to rediscover itself in ever new light, but they do not happen every day. At certain moments of privilege, the Spirit summons the church to risk: “During the night a vision came to Paul: a Macedonian stood there appealing to him: Cross over to Macedonia and help us”. Acts.16.9.

The “signs of the times” are the external evidence of this call to Discipleship of Christ. Reasoned observation and rational planning have a place. Reason is able to perceive certain things that suggest there are changes requiring further and new steps to be taken. Different moments of time have their own signs. Not everyone sees them. Jesus criticised the Pharisees because their wisdom in this regard was deficient: “It is a wicked and Godless generation that asks for a sign; and the only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah” – Mt.12.39. There are insensitive people in every age, unable [unwilling] to see the call for something new. To them mission is no more than simply repeating what has already been achieved. This is the fear principle, prompted by the fact that I know that I can cope with the past because I am still here! So why risk the unknown?

Reading  the Word and the World, Zakopane, Poland.

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February 26. Thomas Traherne XVIII: Our eyes must be towards the Cross.

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Our Saviour’s cross is the throne of delights. That Centre of Eternity, that Tree of Life in the midst of the Paradise of God. There are we entertained with the wonder of all ages. There we enter into the heart of the universe. There we behold the admiration of Angels. There we find the price and elixir of our joys.

As on every side of the earth all heavy things tend to the centre; so all nations ought on every side to flow in unto it. It is not by going with the feet, but by journeys of the Soul, that we travel thither. By withdrawing our thoughts from wandering in the streets of this World, to the contemplation and serious meditation of His blood sufferings. Where the carcase is thither will the eagle be gathered together. Our eyes must be towards it, our hearts set upon it, our affections drawn, and of thoughts and minds United to it. When I am lifted up, saith the Son of Man, I will draw all men unto me.

Traherne was able to reconcile science and faith with his remarks on gravity.

The Cross as the door of Mercy

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October 17: Thomas Traherne XII: an happy loss to lose oneself and to find GOD

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The WORLD is not this little Cottage of Heaven and Earth. Though this be fair, it is too  small a Gift. When God made the World He made the Heavens, and the Heavens of Heavens, and the Angels, and the Celestial Powers. These also are parts of the World: So are all those infinite and eternal Treasures that are to abide for ever, after the Day of Judgement. Neither are these, some here, and some there, but all everywhere, and at once to be enjoyed.

The WORLD is unknown, till the Value and Glory of it is seen: till the Beauty and the Serviceableness of its parts is considered. When you enter into it, it is an illimited field of Variety and Beauty: where you may lose yourself in the multitude of Wonders and Delights. But it is an happy loss to lose oneself in admiration at one’s own Felicity: and to find GOD in exchange for oneself: Which we then do when we see Him in His Gifts, and adore His Glory.

A scientist as well as a poet can happily lose himself or herself in comtemplation.

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2 August, Traherne III: Two worlds.

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This is Thomas Traherne’s Seventh Meditation. He is grappling with the dilemma posed by Jesus’ words on loving the world alongside the Genesis story of creation as God’s good work. Here is Saint John:

Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (2:16-17)

That is the King James Version which Traherne would have used. And  here is his meditation: to contemn is to hold in contempt, to despise.

To contemn the world and to enjoy the world are things contrary to each other. How, then can we contemn the world, which we are born to enjoy? Truly there are two worlds. One was made by God, the other by men. That made by God was great and beautiful. Before the Fall it was Adam’s joy and the Temple of his Glory. That made by men is a Babel of Confusions: Invented Riches, Pomps and Vanities, brought in by Sin: Give all (saith Thomas à Kempis) for all. Leave the one that you may enjoy the other.

Mention of Thomas à Kempis reminds me that my grandmother’s Imitation of Christ turned up recently. Another text to be shared sometime soon. But I like the term ‘Adam’s Joy’! Would we be happy to show our ancestors and our creator what we are doing to the Temple of his Glory? Can we dare to say, Laudato si?

Image from NASA

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24 February: Little Flowers of Saint Francis XIII: A sense of humour helps 2.

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Hearing this Saint Francis, all overjoyed in spirit, lifting up his face unto heaven, stood for a great while with his mind uplifted in God; anon returning to himself again, he knelt him down and rendered thanks and praises unto God: and then with great fervour of spirit turned him to Brother Masseo and said: “Wilt thou know why after me? wilt thou know why after me? wilt thou know why after me? that the whole world doth run? This cometh unto me from the eyes of the most high God, which behold at all time the evil and the good: for those most holy eyes have seen among sinners none more vile, none more lacking, no greater sinner than am I: wherefore to do this marvellous work the which He purposeth to do, He hath not found upon the earth a creature more vile, and therefore hath He chosen me to confound the nobleness and the greatness and the strength and the beauty and wisdom of the world: to
the intent that men may know that all virtue and all goodness come from Him, and not from the creature, and that no man may glory in himself; but whoso will glory, may glory in the Lord, unto whom is honour and glory for ever. and ever.”

Then Brother Masseo, at so humble a reply uttered with so great fervour, was afraid, and knew of a surety that Saint Francis was rooted and grounded in humility.

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February 9: N is for Nowhere

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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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13 April: Maundy Thursday.

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This evening we have the Eucharist; the Maundy or Mandatum, the servant-king washing the disciples’ feet; and we have Christ going out to the garden and his death. This is a Feast that should remind us of the Church’s mission, to love.

I like this reflection, written in wartime by Father Andrew SDC, which reminds us of this truth about the Church which so often is obscured.

The Church is not an organisation managed by men but an organism indwelt by God, and for that reason you should go to Holy Communion on Sundays and great Festivals if you can. Père Huvelin, Baron von Hügel’s confessor, told him to say a decade of the Rosary every day to keep him in the company of ordinary, simple people in the Church. I am sure it is your duty to go as regularly as you can to Holy Communion to keep yourself in the Body of Christ.

Bad as the world is, ‘God so loved it that he gave’ his blessed Son for it.

Bad as the Church is, ‘Christ loved the Church and gave Himself for it.’

Bad as I am, ‘He loved me and gave himself for me.’

Those are the three loves of God: the world, the Church, the individual.

God bless and keep you in His tender love.

The  Rood at Our Lady and the English Martyrs in Cambridge shows Christ the Vine – an image he used on this night (John 15:1-8), bearing fruit, giving us the Eucharist, and reigning now he is lifted up. The Mass is a special celebration in Zambia.

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October 3: Saint Francis’ Eve.

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My friends, it’s Monday, and the working week starts for many of us. Work, politics, social life, all can seem at odds with our calling and mission as Christians, but here’s another view from David Yorke, a secular Franciscan in California. And of course tonight we will celebrate the Transitus of St Francis, and tomorrow the Feast of the Poverello.  Read on and be encouraged! 

Will Turnstone.

Over the years, and in various ways, I continually hear others among our Order who tend to shy away from the word “Secular” in reference to our Franciscan way of life. As for me, this is something that I hope to continually embrace. When I introduce myself as being in Religious Orders, invariably, the follow up questions all stem from the words, “But, how?” My response to them is unequivocal, “I’m a Secular.” Every day I am further reminded by all that is around me – I am a Religious Man in a Secular World.

Those I have talked to across my State and Nation all seem to be experiencing a universal uprising in both angst and vexation. I can not help but think this has spawned the polarising political movements that are dominating the mass media outlets across the United States. Pure vitriol. Yesterday I came across a car that had two bumper stickers. A “Tolerance” sticker on one side of the car, yet some very damning words directed towards a minority political group were displayed on the other. Many people today are angry, incensed, and hurt to the point of blindness and loss of rational thought. All things you might commonly find in a Secular World.

In the book of John, Christ offers up one of the most amazing prayers for his disciples. If we focus more specifically on the few verses around Chapter 17 Verse 15, we find some pertinent words from our Saviour for us “today”. Our Lord asked that you and I remain in this world. He knew we would be exposed to evil, so He provided us with Truth as our sanctification.

Recently, my superior shared this important lesson: ‘ As Franciscans we are supposed to come together in Joy and take that Joy out into the World. Sometimes we get this reversed and we bring the World into the Franciscans.’

This is the challenge put before us all. Clergy, Religious, or Laity, we are are in this World but not of it. When we come together, let us share God’s Love. When we leave, let us take that Truth out in to the World.

I will leave you with a paraphrase of a quote by John Kennedy that frequently inspires me: “… We choose to do these things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” And this is why I am a “Secular” Franciscan, and will remain…..
Your most unworthy,

David A. York, ofs Minister ~ San Luis Rey

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Are we listening? Open Lectures at FISC.

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