Friday, 29 June 2012

Next, please

Sunday Gospel;Mark 5:21-43 

When Jesus had crossed in the boat to the other side, a large crowd gathered round him and he stayed by the lakeside. Then one of the synagogue officials came up, Jairus by name, and seeing him, fell at his feet and pleaded with him earnestly, saying, ‘My little daughter is desperately sick. Do come and lay your hands on her to make her better and save her life.’ Jesus went with him and a large crowd followed him; they were pressing all round him.
  Now there was a woman who had suffered from a haemorrhage for twelve years; after long and painful treatment under various doctors, she spent all she had without being any the better for it, in fact, she was getting worse. She had heard about Jesus, and she came up behind him through the crowd and touched his cloak. ‘If I can touch even his clothes,’ she had told herself ‘I shall be well again.’ And the source of the bleeding dried up instantly, and she felt in herself that she was cured of her complaint. Immediately aware that power had gone out from him, Jesus turned round in the crowd and said, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ His disciples said to him, ‘You see how the crowd is pressing round you and yet you say, “Who touched me?”’ But he continued to look all round to see who had done it. Then the woman came forward, frightened and trembling because she knew what had happened to her, and she fell at his feet and told him the whole truth. ‘My daughter,’ he said ‘your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free from your complaint.’
  While he was still speaking some people arrived from the house of the synagogue official to say, ‘Your daughter is dead: why put the Master to any further trouble?’ But Jesus had overheard this remark of theirs and he said to the official, ‘Do not be afraid; only have faith.’ And he allowed no one to go with him except Peter and James and John the brother of James. So they came to the official’s house and Jesus noticed all the commotion, with people weeping and wailing unrestrainedly. He went in and said to them, ‘Why all this commotion and crying? The child is not dead, but asleep.’ But they laughed at him. So he turned them all out and, taking with him the child’s father and mother and his own companions, he went into the place where the child lay. And taking the child by the hand he said to her, ‘Talitha, kum!’ which means, ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up.’ The little girl got up at once and began to walk about, for she was twelve years old. At this they were overcome with astonishment, and he ordered them strictly not to let anyone know about it, and told them to give her something to eat.

“Hearts are breakable, and I think even when you heal, you're never what you were before".” Cassandra Clare

When you have read or listened to the Gospels in the past you may have noticed that some people have names and some do not. This doesn't seem to relate to how important they are in scripture - there are no wasted words in the Gospel. But it does relate to how important a person at the time of the event and the telling. Notice that neither the woman nor indeed the daughter are named. The only person of any note is Jairus - and he knows it.

The healing ministry of Jesus is well know as we can see. Jesus is barely off the boat and can go no further. The crowds are waiting on the shore; every one with a need or a request for healing but Jairus is the one who feels able to approach Jesus as an equal; he is a leader of faith and in his eyes rank does have its privileges. That Jesus would immediately go with him surprises no-one. 

It wouldn't even surprise this unnamed woman who had been suffering the same twelve years that the little girl has already lived. Twelve years of wasting her money on false hopes and empty promises. Twelve years of knowing that she was both barren and unclean.  Was Jesus her latest hope or her last? Whichever you believe, she approached Jesus, with nothing to lose, as a nobody. Snaking her hand through the legs of the pressing crowd just to touch....and she is healed.

And Jesus notices. 

You may think why would Jesus challenge her? Why not let her return quietly home with the peace of healing to comfort her? Perhaps because she would walk away still thinking that she was someone who didn't matter; who had stolen a moment of Grace without God even noticing?

God notices; Jesus notices; the Spirit notices. And we should know we are noticed; not only noticed but welcomed. We stand in a circle around our God not in a queue. Everyone is as precious as everyone else. And God has time for our prayers and the prayers of everyone else. Which is why even the death of the child is not enough to take her beyond healing. 

I wonder how often in our own prayers do we think that we are just wasting God's time; that there are more important people to care about; that things have become just too bad for even God to make a difference. That we have run out of time. 

Jesus makes time; in all that is going on; in all that his ministry demands of him; Jesus makes the time for Jairus, his daughter and the woman. In the middle of this chaotic scene of bustling crowds moments of Grace take place; in the weeping and wailing of despair moments of Grace take place; in the comforting gesture of a meal Grace takes place. When faith is present Jesus does not choose between; he chooses both. 

Grant that we are able to serve others with such compassion.
In Jesus' name

“The emotion that can break your heart is sometimes the very one that heals it...” Nicholas Sparks


Thursday, 28 June 2012

Feast of Ss Peter and Paul

Peter and Paul - we picture them as the brains and the brawn of the church, and they may even say that themselves. 

Two people who were sure of who they were; with good standing in the own society - confident and self-assured until Jesus came along, threw one out of his boat and another into a ditch. 

Only then did they find out who they really were. They may have been as opposite in culture, status and religious attitude as it was possible to be; as dogmatic within their own beliefs as many are even today but once Jesus caught their eye, they were changed forever. And the catalyst was love. 

It is astonishing how Jesus works with people. Peter and Paul are just two examples but the Gospels are full of people who experience forgivenness and conversion  and no two are the same. Every one of them made by God - therefore unique.So the gift that is the Holy Spirit; that is God's Grace does not move in and create clones. We do not become a master race through our faith. We become what God imagines for us; and we all do it in our individual ways; through a challenge across the campfire; a fall into a ditch or a smack on the head when we least expect it. 

You may or may not know that, scientifically, elementally, coal and diamonds are the same - made from carbon. As unlikely a pairing as you might imagine yet both known for their light - a light that shines in different ways. 

Both have to be sought. They hide in the ground, part of the great creation and needing to be sought. For they both are precious; coal for its heat and energy giving light, diamond for it's unmatched brilliance. Their expression of light is different but it is light - light that is neither immediately apparent or easy to get to. The diamond needs to studied, mathematically evaluated to find the exact cut and facets; the coal is sorted, crushed and burnt; through the cracking and cutting the light gets out. 

Such light is within each of us; as it was within Peter and Paul. They may be giants of the church - go to St Peters in Rome and see them standing 40 or 50 feet tall - but they are just like us; with all the faults and failings that humanity has to offer; which were offered into the fire of discipleship. They were never perfect - which gives us all hope. In fact it was their failings that saved them - that allowed Love to enter where reason and strength would not.  


Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Blessing of Ss Peter and Paul

The blessing of Peter and Paul

May your ego be upended by the hand of the Lord 
May your certainties be silenced by his Word
May ambition become desire to be Servant of all
May your life become aflame with his Love

In Jesus' name


Monday, 25 June 2012

Pearls of great price

GospelMatthew 7:6,12-14 

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls in front of pigs, or they may trample them and then turn on you and tear you to pieces.
  ‘So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.
  ‘Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to perdition is wide and spacious, and many take it; but it is a narrow gate and a hard road that leads to life, and only a few find it.

The interesting thing about pearls - as most people would know - is that 
they are formed from the oysters desire to protect itself. Pearls are the only precious stones formed by a living creature - formed out of pain - formed out of patience - formed out of fortitude.   

It is so hard for us to do the same - to take our hurts; regrets; injuries that we receive and to turn them into precious stones. It takes time and willingness and layers and layers of Grace to be able to say 'I own this hurt - it doesn't own me.' Then, like oysters we hold those pearls within us as symbols of our faith that we are not defined by what is forced upon us.

As we move through life there is always the temptation to feel that we have taken enough. Sometimes it seems as though there is no other way - why not just join in the world-view that there is no point; there is always someone to blame; that we deserve more; that there must be a way around; that the majority does rule.
Then we take the risk of undoing all that we have done - throwing away the Grace that we have received for the sake of gossip; retribution or justification.
It's an easy temptation; a human one but one we have to try to avoid. 

It means something that Jesus  walks everywhere -  walk or sail. And that walking takes him off the highway, through fields and skirting villages and towns - that sailing takes him into storms and meetings in cities of the dead. Surely his storytelling could have found passage with the merchants of the Trade routes; the caravans of pilgrims; the barges of traders. Surely sometimes he must have thought that he deserved an easy ride - or maybe not? 

The easy ride; the wide road; the open gate teaches us nothing; we do not grow in Grace; we do not learn to persevere.We don't get to meet the others that are on the hard road or the narrow path who may need our help as often we will need theirs. 

Take care of your pearls - they are your treasure and your breastplate.


Thursday, 21 June 2012

In the beginning there was John

Sunday Gospel Reflection
GospelLuke 1:57-66,80

The time came for Elizabeth to have her child, and she gave birth to a son; and when her neighbours and relations heard that the Lord had shown her so great a kindness, they shared her joy.
  Now on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother spoke up. ‘No,’ she said ‘he is to be called John.’ They said to her, ‘But no one in your family has that name’, and made signs to his father to find out what he wanted him called. The father asked for a writing-tablet and wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they were all astonished. At that instant his power of speech returned and he spoke and praised God. All their neighbours were filled with awe and the whole affair was talked about throughout the hill country of Judaea. All those who heard of it treasured it in their hearts. ‘What will this child turn out to be?’ they wondered. And indeed the hand of the Lord was with him.
  Meanwhile the child grew up and his spirit matured. And he lived out in the wilderness until the day he appeared openly to Israel.

“In every crowd are certain persons who seem just like the rest, yet they bear amazing messages.” ― Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry

Recently I have been taking part in the registration of new students for the next academic year. Part of the interview is getting some background information.

At one time I used to fill it in from the informal conversation we were having - now I often have to ask the student to complete the first part of the form because I won't know how to spell her first name. Over a number of years the choice of first name for children has become more and more obscure and idiosyncratic.

Even if it is a 'known' name there will be a particular way of spelling and then there are names that are picked from music personalities; cities and states; characters in films; seasons of the year; flowers -  you name it really.  

It seems that parents today want their child to stand out from the crowd from the very first moment of their birth - it is extraordinarily important to be seen as unique and individual. 

Not so in John's time. A sense of belonging and lineage marked every name. As we see from the beginning of Matthew's Gospel the family tree told everything about a person. Born into the prestige of a priest clan the friends and relatives would have certainly expected Elizabeth's longed for son to be named after a revered ancestor if not his own father.

Given the circumstances of the pregnancy, late in life and with the mystery of Zechariah's loss of voice, there must have been mutterings about who exactly was the father; perhaps this 'joy' had other beginnings?

Of course, we have read the Gospel and we know that this child is a sign that 'God is gracious' - the meaning of John. The nature of John's birth is as unique as any child.  But the reason for his birth -   more so. 

John is born to die; and not only to die but to be 'death'. Like his cousin, Jesus, his life is more than the sum of his years - his dying will mean more than the loss of one man.  In fact, from this moment of his birth he is a witness to the end; the death of the old covenant; the death of the prophets of old; the death of the long silence when God did not speak to his people. 

John is the sign that God is gracious. That despite our many weaknesses, God's love can make the barren flourish; that when we are speechless with doubt, God can find the words to bring us home; that when God asks much of us then the Spirit will always be with us  

Through his name, John has left behind his family and became part of the Holy Family - the family of 'yes'.

With John we are told that we are not tied to the past; we are not judged by where we come from, what we have done or who we know; that our future in not mapped out in stars or heraldry or custom. 

We are the Father's own; the Spirit's own; Jesus' own - we have a path that no-one else has set foot on.

With John we celebrate both his birth and his death because they both mean the same thing; a new Way is on the way. 


The most happy man is he who knows how to bring into relation the end and beginning of his life.  Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Night Blessing - from Psalm 131

This Night

My Lord, the world's favour cannot tempt me
This night I seek only your Sanctuary 

My heart like a dove held in your hands
My spirit an infant against its mother's breast 
My soul's breath a lullaby of solace 

This night, my Love, there is only You



Saturday, 16 June 2012

The Mustard Seed

GospelMark 4:26-34 

Jesus said to the crowds, ‘This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man throws seed on the land. Night and day, while he sleeps, when he is awake, the seed is sprouting and growing; how, he does not know. Of its own accord the land produces first the shoot, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. And when the crop is ready, he loses no time: he starts to reap because the harvest has come.’
  He also said, ‘What can we say the kingdom of God is like? What parable can we find for it? It is like a mustard seed which at the time of its sowing in the soil is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet once it is sown it grows into the biggest shrub of them all and puts out big branches so that the birds of the air can shelter in its shade.’
  Using many parables like these, he spoke the word to them, so far as they were capable of understanding it. He would not speak to them except in parables, but he explained everything to his disciples when they were alone.

You will find more in the woods than in books. Trees and stones will teach you that which you can never learn from masters.
-- St. Bernard of Clarivaux

The relationship between humanity and God is often mostly clearly seen in how the natural world thrives and survives despite the uncertainty and capricious nature that it throws, often even at itself.

I'm sure that many will know this story from Children's Liturgy or Sunday School- it is one that teachers love because it is one that can be illustrated - it's a 'hands on' parable ideal for this time of year. Any packet of seeds will do - the saltshaker heads of poppies carry seeds even smaller than the mustard seed of the Galilee - like dust - tiny full-stop sized packets of life. There is the seed that is attached to every dandelion parachute or 'old mans beard' of wild clematis. No matter what, that first green stroke of new life always brings an awareness of the wonder of God's creation. 

And it is not just the size of seeds that astonishes us; the exotic mangrove pod and the monkey heart seeds that float around in the ocean currents for years before settling themselves into the sandy mudbank of a river estuary; the banksia that needs fire to germinate and the mistletoe which rarely germinates without passing through the gut of a mistlethrush. All give a sign of a world that is so much more than we can imagine.

Because we use these stories with children we can imagine that Jesus feels that he is talking to children himself; simple people who cannot grasp the immensity of God's Kingdom. Yet the people of God then were no less civilised or less educated that we are today; they knew scripture and they knew the land. Rather it is Jesus himself who is lost for words and resorts to the miraculous nature of the world that he, himself, had spoken into existence to describe the growth of faith that will build the kingdom of God from these tiny beginnings in the heart of nowhere.

The particular nature of the mustard seed means that, like many desert survivors, it is quick to germinate - within a day or two - and can grow to around ten feet in just one year. Such quick growth is fleshy and pliable; easily eaten or damaged by animals or weather but in just one overwintering the outer skin becomes bark and the trunk and branches become rigid so that when the spring comes even more new growth can be supported. 

It is born out of an eagerness for life and a willingness to blossom when times are right; to wait it out during cold and empty periods and then grow in strength and hospitality. It is its love of life that makes the mustard seed unfold into a tree that the birds of the air will flock around; as Christians seeking to be part of this growing kingdom we must strive just as hard to live a life filled with God's love.

When Jesus tells these parables it is always worth remembering that the stories have an element of subversion.  We imagine the listeners nodding appreciatively at the thought of this benevolent tree; it is equally possible that some would be shaking their heads in dismay. 

The mustard tree is a wild thing; it is not a crop planted by gardeners, farmers or vineyard owners. Whilst it produces beneficial spices; its energetic germination makes it a malignant weed. In a country where good soil and water are owned by those whose wealth comes from the land, no landowner or farmer would want such a plant taking up space or attracting wild birds to feast on their legitimate, profitmaking, grapes or wheat. Once established it is almost impossible to eradicate.

So perhaps the kingdom of God is like that; something that grasps at opportunities; that begins by clutching at straws; that is born in the dirt of a stable - unlooked for and unwelcome. That the kingdom of God will grow quickly, through the ministry of Jesus, in such a short time. 

And that, despite opposition; despite the winters of despair and suffering, it will grow strong. Welcoming those that do not belong; those from outside the boundaries of ownership; those who are unwanted or a threat and in doing so create a kingdom of God within the kingdom of earth.

A kingdom that does not grow for its own sake but to call; to feed and to send out others to the ends of the earth.  These tiny beings, each one known by the Father; each fed by the Son; each borne on the winds of the Spirit - carrying the seeds of the kingdom throughout the world. 


“Listen to the trees as they sway in the wind.Their leaves are telling secrets. Their bark sings songs of olden days as it grows around the trunks. And their roots give names to all things.Their language has been lost. But not the gestures.” ― Vera Nazarian


Thursday, 14 June 2012

Sacred Heart of Jesus

We certainly have a macabre sense of what is Sacred in the Catholic Church.

For many years I avoided the Sacred Heart statues with the excuse that I didn't need to have God's love  to be made quite so obvious.

After all what is it trying to say? That Jesus loves us with all His heart? If it was simply this then it is definitely ostentatious.

But Jesus is God made man and this is a ‘God made human’ heart. 

The love of God the Father to give us His Son as a man.

The heart that is a symbol of mortality. The love of Jesus to accept all that being human meant. I’m fairly certain in my own mind that God does not have to eat, sleep, go the toilet, get blisters from walking or cook the tea for his friends; but that’s what this God did – a heart as big as...

The heart that is the symbol of morality – a new morality for the time – where sinners and the unclean were loved because of who they were, not who they might have been.

The love of Jesus that teaches Love as the whole focus of being – Love God, Love your neighbour – but do it all the time, not just the nice neighbours, not just when it suits you.

The heart that is the symbol of courage – the courage for Jesus to accept the sacrifice he was asked to make and the courage to challenge us to believe.

The heart that is the symbol for passion – Jesus – God - loves every one of us with a passion. It’s not a tame, ‘only when you’re good, only when I’m in the mood’ passion. It’s an ‘I want you all the time, no matter what’ passion.  

The heart that is the organ responsible for pumping blood around the body. In the Eucharist we celebrate the mystery of the wine being consecrated into the Blood of Christ; this gift of sacred joy; of spiritual strength. A gift that is meant for ourselves and for others - take, eat and act in memory of me-   do this in Jesus’ name.

We are the Body of Christ, and it is Jesus who provides the strength, the energy, the force to move the Grace of God within our community and onto other people. The Grace that never ceases to pour down upon us. How big a heart would that take?

It takes Jesus’ heart.

When my own heart is crazed with wounds and cracks there is no-one else who understands; who is prepared to take on the burden; who is willing to hold his wounds open to show me that he will never forget what it is like.   

We are loved with the heart of a God – what more can we ask?


Week of Angels

Just for interest; on my other blog - Brigid's Mantle - I have been writing a sequence of blessings for the week involving the seven archangels that stand before the throne of God. 

The Catholic Church names only three by tradition but the Eastern Orthodox Church both names them and gives them days of the week to take care of,

St Michael (Sunday), St Gabriel (Monday), St Raphael(Tuesday), St Uriel (Wednesday), St Sealtiel (Thursday), St Jegudiel, (Friday), and St Barachiel (Saturday).

I am now just over halfway through, with the lesser known archangels making themselves know as the week draws to a close. Thank you to everyone who has visited already and a blessing that I wrote a year or so ago.

Circle of Protection
I call on the mercy of the
Sacred Three
To send circles of angels
To protect me.
And the mighty Archangels
To stand over me
To shield me with their wings.
To the North, stand Michael, Prince and Warrior
To the South, stand Gabriel, Speaker of Truth
To the West, stand Raphael, Healer and Defender
To the East, stand Uriel, Lightbearer.
May they be comrades in arms
Guardians of faith
Beacons against the darkness
Sentinels of God's Love

in Jesus' name 


Friday, 8 June 2012

My body, my blood

Reflection on the Sunday Feast of Corpus Christi
Gospel of Mark; 14:12-16, 22-26

On the first day of Unleavened Bread, when the Passover lamb was sacrificed, his disciples said to Jesus, ‘Where do you want us to go and make the preparations for you to eat the passover?’ So he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, ‘Go into the city and you will meet a man carrying a pitcher of water. Follow him, and say to the owner of the house which he enters, “The Master says: Where is my dining room in which I can eat the passover with my disciples?” He will show you a large upper room furnished with couches, all prepared. Make the preparations for us there,’ The disciples set out and went to the city and found everything as he had told them, and prepared the Passover.
  And as they were eating he took some bread, and when he had said the blessing he broke it and gave it to them. ‘Take it,’ he said ‘this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and when he had returned thanks he gave it to them, and all drank from it, and he said to them, ‘This is my blood, the blood of the covenant, which is to be poured out for many. I tell you solemnly, I shall not drink any more wine until the day I drink the new wine in the kingdom of God.’

  After psalms had been sung they left for the Mount of Olives.

“The liturgy of the Eucharist is best understood as a journey or procession. It is the journey of the Church into the dimension of the Kingdom.  It is not an escape from the world, rather it is the arrival at a vantage point from which we can see more deeply into the reality of the world.”
― Alexander Schmemann

When we teach the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem we talk about the expectation of the Jews; that if they were going to get a Messiah then he should be a warrior and one that has come to challenge the worldview that they were living under. 

This introduction to the Passover suggests that Jesus is, at least, fulfilling the second part of expectation but only if you read the signs. When I was younger I used to read this passage as if Jesus was a magician who knew exactly what was going to happen and could even make things happen, exactly the way he wanted them to. 

In fact it is more likely that the preparations for the Passover were made as part of an already covert group that were supporting Jesus and his Mission. Reading the Gospel we come to realise that Jesus is not the popular person that we may have thought. He is criticised by his family and his neighbours; he is thrown out of towns and told not to come back. His previous visits to Jerusalem have not ended well. His walks through fields and deserts, off the beaten track, are probably as much to prevent confrontation as anything else. 

Jesus and his followers are living in violent times; times when it wasn't always prudent to wear your heart on your sleeve; especially in Jerusalem when people were already out to get you. So the sign of the watercarrying man, in a society when men did not carry water could well be the sign of a group of followers awaiting the return of their Rabbi for this, the most important feast of the year. The preparations for the Seder meal are particular and time-consuming so would have been well underway - the disciples would have been complicit in the final arrangements to gather his followers together- all without any knowledge of what was to come.

This is where it all gets so sadly ironic. The followers must be delighted to be back in Jerusalem again with Jesus; delighted to be celebrating the memory of Moses bringing the Hebrew slaves out of Egypt and imagining that Jesus was going to lead them out of exploitation, exclusion and discrimination. After all, Moses had tried diplomacy before calling down the Angel of the Lord; before all that bloodshed. Surely there was something of a righteous warrior in Jesus? Little did they know that the blood shed would be his.

The reenactment of the last night in Egypt recalls that the people left with no more than the clothes they stood up in. Jesus faces his fate with even less. Before they leave for the Mount of Olives - a sign that the feast day is over - Jesus has taken the place of the Passover Lamb.  

In prayer I often turn to prayers of surrender such as the Ignatian Suspice - Take Lord, receive - like James and John I imagine that I can make the same sacrifice that Jesus faces; except I have this feeling that I have been getting it wrong. 

Jesus is not a sacrifice; his Father may have offered him as Abraham did  many years before, but this Lamb has a mind of his own - in the sharing he has made a gift of himself - giving his body to be our strength and his blood to mark us as his own. A gift pushed aside as a maudlin gesture; laughed away in the cups of the Seder toast but held in trust until the breaking of bread in a wayside inn on the road to Emmaus.  

For all the times since, in house gatherings and Cathedrals, chapels and churches; upper rooms and underground hiding places, Jesus is present, giving himself with unending generosity; his body and blood in every celebration of the Eucharist for whoever is there to receive him. He gives himself to the child, the aged, the poor, the angry, the despised, the joyful, the optimist, the doubter, the comfortable, the wise, the wondering and the weary. He gives himself to me so that I can try to give myself back to him.  

- St. Maximilian Kolbe
"You come to me and unite Yourself intimately to me under the form of nourishment. Your Blood now runs in mine, Your Soul, Incarnate God, compenetrates mine, giving courage and support. What miracles! Who would have ever imagined such!"


Thursday, 7 June 2012

Corpus Christi

Corpus Christi

Given, helpless
Sticky with blood
Slippery with sweat
Enfolded into his mother.
First words; first steps:
Giggles and tickles;
Sneezes and coughs;
Tears, hiccups.
Body of Christ

Falls from trees
Scraped knees, bloody noses;
Splinters, ‘too hot!’ burns;
Nettlerash, pimples;
Dirt ingrained in fingerprint whorls
Calluses, bitten nails
Blistered shoulders
Slipped chisel scars
Body of Christ

Face of a wanderer
Laughter lines etched deep
Leathered skin
Speaking of Love
Giving peace with a kiss
Courage with a word
Sharing of Body and Blood
Food for the journey
Body of Christ

Agonised flesh
Tortured, tormented,
Defiled, pierced
Given, helpless
Sticky with blood
Slippery with sweat
Enfolded into his Father
Body of Christ


Saturday, 2 June 2012

Love, love, love

GospelMatthew 28:16-20

The eleven disciples set out for Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had arranged to meet them. When they saw him they fell down before him, though some hesitated. Jesus came up and spoke to them. He said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you. And know that I am with you always; yes, to the end of time.’

When we understand the outside of things, we think we have them. Yet the Lord puts his things in subdefined, suggestive shapes, yielding no satisfactory meaning to the mere intellect, but unfolding themselves to the conscience and heart. -- George MacDonald

It is worth remembering that each of the Gospels represents a different point of view; just like witnesses of any event there is often a personal slant and for Matthew the accent is on the relationship between Jesus and his own people, the Jews.

The Gospels are also written in hindsight so links are made between the events of   the Mission itself; the references back to what we call the Old Testament and fast forward to the discipleship and nature of the community at the time they were written. When we study scripture now we must relate to them from our own lives and with an informed knowledge of the history and tradition of the faith  the message becomes alive for us too.

And, because the Gospels were written for a people who listened rather than read they have symbols in them that were clues to the action - more like listening to the radio than reading a story.

So it is worth noting that, as a Jew, Matthew loves mountains;Jesus is about to ascend to his Father - so there must be a mountain as a scriptural symbol of the link between humanity and God. And Jesus approaches them; authority comes to them - and they are transformed - they become the Mission. 

And how the disciples fulfilled this - and kept count- was through the water of baptism; symbolism again of the new life given.

But the symbol that people would not have recognised is that of the Trinity. If Jesus did nothing else he introduced us to this unimaginable mystery of the Triune God and he did it with Love.

Tradition would guess that the Father is the Creator God - if he ever was just himself, Love must have felt like a bumblebee trapped in a jar - frantic for freedom - it becomes hard to imagine God with a single face. Where would Love be born out of? Where would it go to?

Self-love is dangerous. To create humanity out of loneliness seems pathetic rather than godly; to create humanity so as to love God is self-centred and ill conceived - especially as we are not very good at it.

Give God two faces and love become imaginable- looking into the eyes of the One, knowing that you are also the One; a love that mirrors itself; basking in its perfection; still something of a tragic Narcissus. 

Complete in themselves; a God with two faces would have had no need for us; no time to even consider creating distractions such as ourselves.God with three faces always has somewhere else to look; another image to gaze upon with wonder and awe; Love that grows and strains to find more to love. A love that is drawn from one to another in a patterning, often described as a dance of Grace - creator, created and creative. 

This God is able to look at each other and say 'we will never be apart' and yet ‘this Love needs to be shared’. 

The need to share Love is what is asked of the disciples then and what is asked of us now. The doctrine of the Trinity with its mathematical devices and paradoxical metaphors asks a lot of our faith and our understanding. In many ways, this is what makes it feel true - God surely must be racing through our questioning minds all our lives and then racing back to remind us that there is only Love to understand just as quickly: like a lover in a dream that we can't quite hold onto. Thankfully we have Jesus who is there to walk with us and show us the way. We live in a  rhythm of commissioning, challenge and compassion.

We are held in a circle of Love that is active; creative and all encompassing - Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The feeling remains that God is on the journey, too. --Teresa of Avila