Thursday, 30 October 2008

Looking Good in God

Ephesians 6:10 - 20
Finally, grow strong in the Lord, with the strength of his power. Put God’s armour on so as to be able to resist the devil’s tactics. For it is not against human enemies that we have to struggle, but against the Sovereignties and the Powers who originate the darkness in this world, the spiritual army of evil in the heavens. That is why you must rely on God’s armour, or you will not be able to put up any resistance when the worst happens, or have enough resources to hold your ground. So stand your ground, with truth buckled round your waist, and integrity for a breastplate, wearing for shoes on your feet the eagerness to spread the gospel of peace and always carrying the shield of faith so that you can use it to put out the burning arrows of the evil one. And then you must accept salvation from God to be your helmet and receive the word of God from the Spirit to use as a sword.
Pray all the time, asking for what you need, praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all the saints; and pray for me to be given an opportunity to open my mouth and speak without fear and give out the mystery of the gospel of which I am an ambassador in chains; pray that in proclaiming it I may speak as boldly as I ought to.
I think Paul must have been a kinaesthetic learner. he certainly knows how to paint a picture of how to live with God's power around us. We may be used to reading the Gospel as words on a page but we should never forget that Jesus is the Word. He is physical; he knows how important his presence means to the disciples; he is meant to be tangible, otherwise why leave us his body and blood? -you can't get much more physical than that.
As children we want to be held, cuddled, protected by someone who loves us and who drives away our fears and hesitations. We wear football shirts and school ties to show that we belong, that we are not alone.We put on Dad's shoes and Mum's coat so that we can be big like them.
Paul is telling us to do the same with God. Get the Word off the page and wrap him around you. There will be times when you can't do it on your own; you don't have to. Wear God as a shield, use him as a sword; hide behind him if you want to - he's big enough.
This is meant to be the sign of a mystic, a person who has a personal and physical experience of God, but there's little reason why we all can't have that. Like all relationships you have to make a commitment, spend some time, want it to work and something will happen. But having made a connection don't ignore him.
Don't think because you've bought the t-shirt that makes you a supporter. You have to interact, participate, communicate or as Paul puts it - pray. All it means is talk. It doesn't have to be fancy; it doesn't have to be polite; it doesn't have to be all about him or you for that matter. Just chat, moan, discuss, inform, include, acknowledge and remember, occasionally, to allow him to answer. Then, in time, it won't be just Faith that tells you God exists - in fact that's one of his favourite subjects.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Excess Baggage

Luke 13:22 - 30
Through towns and villages Jesus went teaching, making his way to Jerusalem. Someone said to him, ‘Sir, will there be only a few saved?’ He said to them, ‘Try your best to enter by the narrow door, because, I tell you, many will try to enter and will not succeed. ‘Once the master of the house has got up and locked the door, you may find yourself knocking on the door, saying, “Lord, open to us” but he will answer, “I do not know where you come from.” Then you will find yourself saying, “We once ate and drank in your company; you taught in our streets” but he will reply, “I do not know where you come from. Away from me, all you wicked men !” ‘Then there will be weeping and grinding of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves turned outside. And men from east and west, from north and south, will come to take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. ‘Yes, there are those now last who will be first, and those now first who will be last.’

The Jews really didn't really expect everyone to saved - they 'knew' that it was only for those few who kept all the laws, the few who had God's favour (i.e. wealth), the few that had the confidence to stand at the front of the synagogue - telling God how good they had been.

And it happens now - religious people claiming that you will not be saved unless you ...........
Using human law, fear and judgement to decide for God on the fate of others. But who are we to judge?

Paul tells us that God wants us all with Him. He is a God of mercy - He wants to err on the side of love. But we are human and in our humanity we are never going to be worthy.

So how do we get into a position where we can stand before him in hope of salvation? By going through the narrow door. By letting go. The doorway to the throne room is so narrow that you have to leave everything behind; your possessions, your wealth, your books, your rosary beads; you have to cast off everything until all there is is you. And if you can stand like that before God, without all that artifice of human values, then I think you have a pretty good chance of getting a seat at the feast.

If you can't - then you'll be sitting on the stairs for an awfully long time.


Tuesday, 28 October 2008

The Last Resort

Feast Day - 28th October - Ss Simon and Jude
A short devotional to one of my patron saints - my mother has spent her life praying to St Jude (saint of the last resort) on my behalf - I almost feel we are family.
Strangely Jude was also called Thaddaeus, a perfectly good name which would make you wonder why the church would give him his other name which everyone mixes up with Judas Escariot - giving rise to one of the theories as to why 'the last resort' - trouble with names is mud sticks - and you can well imagine that people would not wish to be heard praying to the person who betrayed Jesus, so if you had to pray to Jude it would be a last resort.
Another idea comes from the missionary work that he and his friend Simon did. They were out in Mesopotamia and Persia preaching to the pagans and taming tigers. Back in Jerusalem there were early Christians wishing to speak with the original Apostles not the disciples (you know the type who only ever want the priest). As the Apostles were martyred one by one this became more and more difficult but Jude did last quite a while (into the 60's) but going all the way to Persia to see him would have been a Last Resort.
Is it true? Does it matter? We know so little about most of the Apostles we can make up our own stories but it's nice to know there is a doorway for Last Resorts.
What is important, especially to non-Catholics and others who think praying to saints is next to idolatory, that you don't get what you need from the saint, you get it from God, and the saint is only a friendly face helping you to pass the message on. It helps us remember that we and all those who have gone before are just living on both sides of a doorway, a la Stargate. We may not see them but the communication link is always there. Paul calls us all saints, we have all been saved. Which reminds me, I must ask my mother if she thinks her prayers have ever been answered.
wordinthehand 2008

Sunday, 26 October 2008


Matthew 22:34 - 40
When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees they got together and, to disconcert him, one of them put a question, ‘Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?’ Jesus said, ‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second resembles it: You must love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang the whole Law, and the Prophets also.’
The whole basis of Christian teaching in possibly the most famous few words of the Gospel.
It appears that Jesus has made everything simple for us - don't worry about those 600-odd rules of Judaic living; don't even worry about the Ten Commandments; just do these two things - that's all I ask.
The trouble with simple stuff is it doesn't leave you with any room for manoeuvre. We know what Jesus means when he says 'neighbour' - everyone you ever meet, everyone on the planet - we are all connected. If you don't want to love someone whether it's your awkward and actual next door neighbour, the down-and-out who comes and sits next to you on the park bench or the Third World child dying of Aids, you can't go and find the loophole; there won't be one.
Love the Lord your God? Easy enough, don't we all love him? We pray to him, we visit him in church, we wear crosses and little fish; of course we love him. He doesn't need much more love than that- he is, after all, God. Hmm.
I have recently became a grandmother. And I was proudly nursing my three week old grandchild up and down the aisle of church the other day when a friend remarked - 'Look, madonna and child.' I accepted the compliment. This morning I spent three hours walking the house nursing her through a bout of colic. It wasn't the first time, probably not the last.
In the haze of tiredness, images of the real Madonna and baby came into my head.
Always too perfect, too serene,too good to be true. If only.
This is an image of a human and God. And God is not in control, God is not telling her what to do, God is not mighty. It is human love that is mighty. It is human love that can take on the total dependence of a baby. It is human love that springs unreasoningly from nowhere. It is human love that can walk the floors, not knowing what the matter is, not knowing what else to do but being prepared to do anything, give up anything to bring peace. It isn't a law - we can't be commanded to do this - God needs us to love him and with the kind of love we can give; heart and soul and all our might: who can blame him?


Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Knock, knock

Luke 12:36 - 38
Jesus said:‘Be like men waiting for their master to return from the wedding feast, ready to open the door as soon as he comes and knocks. Happy those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. It may be in the second watch he comes, or in the third, but happy those servants if he finds them ready.’

So often we have God wrong; even when we have convinced ourselves that he is really not the nasty judgemental God from our early days; even when we accept that God is about Love; we still don't know the half of it.

The scenario in this Gospel is ridiculous; the servants alert and attentive when the master comes are more likely to find themselves thrown into a frenzy of feeding, bathing and banking up fires. For when a master arrives home in the middle of the night you would not expect to find him at his most sociable.

But this is not God. God finding us at our posts, ready and waiting, is so overcome that he willingly and thankfully, serves us; puts us before himself; treats us as we were ready to treat others. And this is not about Judgement Day - this is every day of our lives. Every day we accept our responsibilities as Christians, God comes to our door and offers himself to us; to do for us what we try to do for others.

Our God is crazy - crazy with Love.


Monday, 20 October 2008

Works of Art

Ephesians 2:1 - 10
You were dead through the crimes and the sins in which you used to live when you were following the way of this world, obeying the ruler who governs the air the spirit who is at work in the rebellious. We all were among them too in the past, living sensual lives, ruled entirely by our own physical desires and our own ideas; so that by nature we were as much under God’s anger as the rest of the world.
But God loved us with so much love that he was generous with his mercy: when we were dead through our sins, he brought us to life with Christ – it is through grace that you have been saved – and raised us up with him and gave us a place with him in heaven, in Christ Jesus. This was to show for all ages to come, through his goodness towards us in Christ Jesus, how infinitely rich he is in grace. Because it is by grace that you have been saved, through faith; not by anything of your own, but by a gift from God; not by anything that you have done, so that nobody can claim the credit. We are God’s work of art, created in Christ Jesus to live the good life as from the beginning he had meant us to live it.

I collect things, shells and polished glass from the beach; stone and wood from the woods; I pick broken jewellery and rusty metal up off the pavement, out of bins and skips. I collect phrases that people say, or that I hear on the tv or radio, or which come into my head at random moments. Once collected, they can stay in my garden corner or in a box, in my head or in a journal until one day when I look at them and see what they can become. A poem, a story, an icon, a sculpture, a book. Then I make it; and it is unique - I could make something similar but never the same. And the artist, the creative parent in me sees it as beautiful - a work of art.

Because it is a created object, it is not aware -no more aware that it is beautiful than it was when it was rubbish.

But what a surprise -when God creates us - out of stardust and a gleam from his eye, we tend to see the rubbish and not the art. We criticise ourselves, how we look, how intelligent, how gifted, how good or bad we are; and we measure ourselves against others - and often find ourselves wanting - wanting to be like them, wanting to look like them, wanting that image.

We, who are amazed at the scientific fact that no two snowflakes are alike, astounded at the fact that there are over two hundred species of cowrie, astonished that the patch design on giraffes is individual and unique cannot look at ourselves and see the wonder of God's work. And, seeing it, not want the work to continue. Because we are not finished - we are a work of art - we are also a work in progress. God's grace, God's inability to leave us alone because he loves us so much is always there, trembling to get at us, to help us live the life that he intended for us.

Paul gets this because he is aware; has seen himself transformed from rubbish to art. He knows who the artist is and how he works.

This is the Year of Paul in the church. Forget whatever you heard about him being bombastic, inconsistent, misogynistic, and listen to him - it's always the same message - God loves you, no matter what - God made you and he doesn't make rubbish.


Sunday, 19 October 2008

Money, money,money

Matthew 22:15 - 21
Then the Pharisees went away to work out between them how to trap him in what he said. And they sent their disciples to him, together with the Herodians, to say, ‘Master, we know that you are an honest man and teach the way of God in an honest way, and that you are not afraid of anyone, because a man’s rank means nothing to you. Tell us your opinion, then. Is it permissible to pay taxes to Caesar or not?’ But Jesus was aware of their malice and replied, ‘You hypocrites! Why do you set this trap for me? Let me see the money you pay the tax with.’ They handed him a denarius, and he said, ‘Whose head is this? Whose name?’ ‘Caesar’s’ they replied. He then said to them, ‘Very well, give back to Caesar what belongs to Caesar – and to God what belongs to God.’

Well, it's good to know that Jesus knew a back-handed compliment when he heard one; and a trick question when it's posed.

There's quite a bit to be aware of when you are talking money in the Gospel. And from my own limited knowledge there are a few particular things to know here:

We know that Israel is part of the Roman Empire at this point, they are not there by invitation. Rome took Rome with her as she occupied countries and so the currency, in every country became Roman. The head of Caesar, a daily reminder for every citizen of every land.

We know that Rome funds the Empire by taxing those she has overthrown, and clever as she is, the tax collectors are recruited from local stock. Immediately branded collaborators they are outcast from society and the temple; in it for the money they charge above and beyond what they pay to Rome to pay themselves. Tax collectors lived every day knowing that they have made the choice between God and Caesar.

But is the Temple any better? In their show of desire to be 'pure', Caesar's coin is not allowed in the Temple, can't be used to buy sacrifice or given in tithe. It has to be exchanged for Temple money. And, of course, exchange comes with commission - these are the money men that Jesus rants over at the entrance to the Temple - yet another barrier between God and the poor.

So, back to the taxes; do you think it would be a good idea to not pay what you owe? Given that not paying would mean interest being heaped upon the debt until it meant giving up your business, your home and selling you and your family into service? - No.
What do you think Rome would think of a person suddenly raising himself above the teaching of the Torah to advocate what is basically rebellion? Certainly, some of the zealots, the freedom fighters, must have secretly wished Jesus would call for taxes not to be paid; what a way to start a war! But realistically it would have been the end there and then. And it wasn't the right time and it wasn't the right reason.

Jesus looks at the coin, at the worldly insecurity that makes a man, a ruler, a God-king need to have his image impressed on pieces of metal and sees it for what it is - stuff. Nothing God wants, nothing that feeds the spirit, that tends the soul.

He looks at the Pharisees and others waiting for an answer - waiting to spring the trap - God or Caesar - either answer will give them ammunition against him.

Jesus tells them - pay the taxes; if it's what this man wants, if it keeps you out of slavery - and pay it without resentment or feeling belittled; it is not what life is about.

What belongs to God is more important. You, your love, your love for each other, your happiness.

Simple really, except even now, we put stuff above God. Our need to have our own heads stamped on the trappings of success - my car, my house, my plasma screen, my place in the sun. And then we forget that money is just a tool; we have other responsiblities; we have neighbours.

No-one should be so poor that they cannot eat, or have a place to sleep or a roof over their heads. We know this, the Church knows this, society knows this and many people to try to fight the scandals that still exists.

Tell me, how rich should you be? Perhaps just rich enough to look God in the face and still be able to smile?


Saturday, 18 October 2008

The Sending

Luke 10:1 - 9
The Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself was to visit. He said to them, ‘The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest. Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals. Salute no one on the road. Whatever house you go into, let your first words be, “Peace to this house!” And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you. Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house. Whenever you go into a town where they make you welcome, eat what is set before you. Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near to you.”
Jesus has given up trying to do it all himself. As fast as he is healing in one village he is being maligned in another. So he gathers what is the nearest he will come to an 'army' around him to launch an offensive.
Because, it wasn't like the movies, just Jesus and the Twelve promenading around the Galilee chatting to people. He was 'on a mission'. Maybe he knew he had three years, maybe he didn't, maybe it wasn't even three years, but there was a change to be made and it just wasn't happening. Still, there were those that followed and that believed, and although he feared for their lives, 'lambs among wolves', he chose the best of them; gave them all the advice he could and sent them out (remembering that 'the best of them' in Jesus' eyes could have been sinners, outcasts and women). And, not to give the game away, but they do really well!
There's a lot going on today in the Church that could benefit from listening this Gospel. At this time there is a move towards the church getting 'church-ier', the Liturgy becoming more ritualised, and reverence being held in higher esteem that hospitality. The people who want this say it is to protect the tradition - well, there are two traditions in the Church;
Faith - the Tradition of the Trinity, the Death and Resurrection and teachings of Jesus Christ and Culture - the tradition of what the buildings look like, what we wear, where we sit and what we sing. One is Eternal and the other is transitory. We should be careful not to mix them up.
It's the real Tradition that should really involve us and as Christians we should have read the small print; it wasn't just the Twelve that were chosen (not just the priests and religious today) but everyone who considers themselves a Christian is a disciple. Sent out, not to build buildings, not to mix only with other Christians, not to play it safe; but to bring peace and healing and the Kingdom of God.
That's our responsibility now. We have to prove to the 'Church', to society, to ourselves that the image may be changing, that it may be time for a 'make-over' but that the only real way for the Church to stay alive is always to go back, to return to the source, to the Word, to the Sending.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Show's over

Luke 11:29.32
The crowds got even bigger and Jesus addressed them, ‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’

Jesus cures a man (they're not impressed) they praise his mother (he's not impressed) but he's providing enough entertainment, causing enough controversy to draw a massive crowd. And now, with them in the palm of his hand, does Jesus reassure them of their place as the chosen people, does he unite them against the Romans, does he prove that he is the Messiah they have been waiting for? No, you do well not to even try to second guess the Lord.

He berates them - thank you for coming to see the 'show' but the show's over and your tickets are now void!

They have spent too much time looking for the angle, the trick, the evidence and Jesus has realised they are never going to get it. The show has become a showdown and from now on he changes tack - he will be directly challenging the Temple, the Law, the Sabbath - everything that has stopped people from 'seeing' who he is.

It's an exciting read from now on, and remember we do have the advantage of hindsight, so when we are reading we would do well to consider where we are standing now. What would the the Queen of Sheba say about us?

Are we in the light and grace of a loved and well-lived life or in the shadow of a life hidden behind laws and doubts and excuses.


Sunday, 12 October 2008


Matthew 22:1 - 14
Jesus began to speak to them in parables once again, ‘The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a feast for his son’s wedding. He sent his servants to call those who had been invited, but they would not come. Next he sent some more servants. “Tell those who have been invited” he said “that I have my banquet all prepared, my oxen and fattened cattle have been slaughtered, everything is ready. Come to the wedding.” But they were not interested: one went off to his farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his servants, maltreated them and killed them. The king was furious. He despatched his troops, destroyed those murderers and burnt their town. Then he said to his servants, “The wedding is ready; but as those who were invited proved to be unworthy, go to the crossroads in the town and invite everyone you can find to the wedding.” So these servants went out on to the roads and collected together everyone they could find, bad and good alike; and the wedding hall was filled with guests. When the king came in to look at the guests he noticed one man who was not wearing a wedding garment, and said to him, “How did you get in here, my friend, without a wedding garment?” And the man was silent. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot and throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.’
Not easy, this Gospel, in a cycle of parables where the underdog, the outcast, the unwanted win the prize; here we see such a person being severely punished.
Not even easy for the priests either; I was somewhat amused when one of our priests actually left out the 'difficult ending'. So what to make of it?
The first bit seems awkward, but in theological terms understandable (this is why you have to read the first reading with the Gospel - it's a clue). The Jewish people are the chosen ones - always intended to be at the Wedding Feast, to celebrate the coming of the Kingdom. But they ignore the invitation when it finally comes. So it is re-directed to the passersby. As in earlier parables the invitation is opened up to the 'others';the unclean, the stranger, the gentile. And they accept. Who wouldn't pass up the chance of a free meal?
But there is one that catches the king's eye. One who hasn't made the effort. For as poor and as unworthy as the rest of the guests are, they have tried to spruce themselves up; they have brushed the dust from their clothes, they have found a piece of fabric or a comb for their hair and as unworthy as they are they have done their best. Except this one, who despite the invitation, despite the benefits that the invitation offers, has not mady any effort, at all. And cannot say, when challenged, why he has not.
You have to feel sorry for this person, he/she is almost there. Plucked from obscurity, from nothing and offered a place of salvation, they accept, only to neglect to do their part. And so they suffer.
For we are all unworthy of salvation, it is our human condition that we spend our days not doing what we should do, and yet even the small effort that we make earns us a place at the table.
But to make no effort, to reject the offer made in good faith and generosity - let's be honest most of us would have cancelled the wedding feast - to reject such salvation would be just foolish.
So should we feel bad about this Gospel, sympathise with this foolish person for their ignorance? Or should we hope that we are not that person, secure in our own lives and unaware of what is being offered to us by a loving and generous King. I suppose it is all down to thankfulness again. That our unworth does not matter to God - He has made the invitation and that all we have to do is say 'Yes' with a bit of effort and intention to be a guest that He would be proud of - and we are there - at the party, proud to be chosen and being the best guest we can be.


Saturday, 11 October 2008

Can you hear Him?

Luke 11:27 - 28

Now as Jesus was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said, ‘Happy the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!’ But he replied, ‘Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!’

Surely a contender for the shortest Gospel in the year. And, as many of the writings that mention Mary, fairly dismissive of Jesus' mother. What must the Marian devotees think? For today, Mary is often celebrated as almost an equal to the Trinity - Queen of Heaven - and here in one of her special months she is somewhat slighted in her role as a mother. Or is she? For Jesus' reply rejoices in those who hear and obey God's word, and surely that is what Mary did?

Of course she did, but she was not just a production unit acquired by an angel, her obedience to God did not end with Jesus' growth into manhood. It is clear that she accompanied him in his ministry - for it really wasn't just the Lord and twelve apostles walking the dusty roads of the Galilee region, it was their families, the disciples that came after the twelve and the women.

For women are not just mothers or daughters, men are not just fathers or sons; we are all brothers and sisters who have 'put on Christ' to become more than any 'role' we are given by society or tradition.

Before anything else, we belong to God from the second of our conception (or before) until eternity; hearing and obeying God's Word means knowing that that is true and living our lives with the conviction of all that that entails.


Friday, 10 October 2008

Always look on the bright side

Luke 11:15 - 26

In front of the crowd Jesus casts out a demon from a man who couldn't speak. This isn't his first healing; there must be plenty of people in the crowd who have seen him work, maybe some he has healed and yet even if they don't quite believe he is God can they joyfully accept at least that his gifts comes from God? Can they heck.

'Yes it looks good, but it's a trick', 'Is that it?', If he can get demons to do that, he must work for the devil himself.'

Sometimes we just don't know how to say thank-you. It seems that the human condition expects for glasses to be half-empty -

'Well I am healthy but I could be prettier', 'I am well-off but I could be rich', I am loved but I could be lusted after'. There must be a demon called But.

We need to get rid of 'But'. One of the favoured teachings of spirituality today (through Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr) is the idea of being present in the present.

At this moment I am here with God and I am glad to be here, knowing that my entire existence is thanks to God. In the next moment I will try to feel the same and in every other moment, when I can remind myself. Because I and God can't do anything about what has gone and perhaps not much about what will be, but now, this Now, the least I can do is say 'Thank-you'.


Thursday, 9 October 2008

Be careful what you ask for..

Luke 11:5-13

Today's Gospel typically supports the idea of petitioning prayer - basically asking God to do stuff for us - and we have made a real speciality out of this sort of prayer; from Novenas to bidding prayers at Mass, we say to God ' Give us what we think we want and we'll be fine and very grateful.'

'Well, gee thanks,' God must think ' if only it was that easy.'

It would be different if we had the God's eye view of the world, Time, relationship and consequence but unfortunately only God has that omniscient outlook. Only He can juggle not only life's pathway for one person but the whole cat's cradle of everyone who has, who is and who will ever live. Loving and caring for us not equally but unique-ally - and we tell Him what's best!

Yet Jesus does tell us to pray and to be persistent in our prayers. Perhaps though prayer is meant to be more than a shopping list, perhaps instead of nagging God we need to be reassuring Him of our love and telling Him, in a constant renewal of our commitment, that we do trust Him not to feed us stones, that we will try to find a purpose in our worries and our trials and that we know we need Him, we need to feel Him in our daily lives.

So this is really the prayer: 'Here I am Father, with all my woes and troubles, trusting You, knowing You are with me, and giving myself, with childlike confidence, into your hands.'

For sometimes, and though it is horrible to admit it is true, we really don't see God shining in our lives until we find ourselves in the dark.


Wednesday, 8 October 2008

The Lord's Prayer - our prayer

We all have an image of God; it amazes me how we ever manage to believe in an almighty, all-powerful ever-living God, when that image is usually one of an old man with a white beard.

But stranger yet is the image that Jesus give us in today's Gospel. Here we have a thirty-odd year old man, who knows he's the Second Person of the Trinity talking to God the Father, with love and trust, as a toddler would talk to his Daddy (as the word Abba really means) and inviting all of us to do the same.

No ritualistic gestures or long words. A simple prayer -

Dad, you are wonderful and I hope everything goes your way. Help me to care for others, even those I don't like. And look after me. Thanks

And as that's the Father God I want to believe in, here is my prayer

Lord, I am nothing, if I am not Yours
Yours to love with a father’s pride,
Yours to love with a mother’s care.
And here I am, an adoring child
Reckless in the security of that love.
Confident that whenever I fall
I can lift my arms to you.
Whenever I fail,
Your smile will give me strength.
Whenever I am lost
You will take my hand
And lead me home.
For I am Yours.


Tuesday, 7 October 2008

New Start

It doesn't seem that long since this was my first start, only beginning blogging in February 2008.
It was a big step for someone brought up as a Liverpool/Irish cradle Catholic inbred with a fear and reverence for the Roman church, personified by the parish priest, but not much knowledge of God and not particularly expected to have or voice an opinion about their faith.

But new beginnings aren't limited to blog sites and over the years I have learnt a bit about priests, more than I would sometimes like about the Church, and lots (but never enough) about God.

Today's Gospel story was Luke's account of Martha and Mary which, considering it is only about 120 words long, tends to haunt me on lots of different levels and probably tells you a lot about where I am 'coming from'.

On one (not all) of its levels this is a woman's gospel, particularly if you are a Catholic, because this says a lot about the attitude to (and often by) women and their role in the church.

A minimum two thirds of Catholics are women and what do they do? If they are involved in the church - which they often are - then they are Marthas; Martha really does nothing wrong in this Gospel, a good Jew, she is obeying the Law of hospitality, she is caring for others, she is using her 'talents'. Women everywhere support Martha for she mirrors their role; the Welcome team, social committee, cleaners, visiting the sick, children's liturgy - being useful, being practical, being good.

Occasionally, you get one of those women in the church; a feminist, a questioner, a liturgist, heaven forbid a theologian - who won't help with the Christmas Fair or make the tea at Council meetings - in other words, a Mary. And it's surprising, in these days of equality and pluralism and freedom, that these women are still viewed with suspicion. Yet Jesus says that she is in the right place. She should be at his feet, learning scripture, learning the faith so that she can tell others. Don't get me wrong - not instead of men - for when did Jesus ever refuse to teach men? But as well as, together with, as part of the body of Christ that St Paul tells us we belong to.

So, there you are, I am a Mary, with vestiges of Martha, for acts of hospitality and care are required by all of us, and in the Catholic church that's a challenge - but whoever wanted an easy life?