Friday, 27 July 2012

All that I am

GospelJohn 6:1-15 

Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.
  Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.

“Give what you have. To someone, it may be better than you dare to think.” ― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

It was a foolish thing to do; to walk knowingly into the hills without food or water. We should have all known better.

Yet listening to the Rabbi we became entranced - by his vision; by his words; by his promises. This kingdom of his was where we wanted to be; It was a vision that we did not want to walk away from; knowing the life that waited for us back in the cities and towns. Knowing that there - there would be no honour in being meek, sad or downtrodden. We may have trusted him but we had lived in a different world.

So we followed; like some great flock of sheep pushing to stay in sight of their shepherd. And like sheep sitting in the meadow grass of the early spring and suddenly realising that our spirits were full but our bellies were empty. Then wondering if this had all been a trick; a real enchantment; for what were we to do now? Children crying out and if anyone had food they were too scared to take it from their robes under the hungry eyes of their neighbours.

Until the miracle, and that is what it was – there was no sudden sharing from the crowd; a caravan didn’t suddenly appear. The offering of food by the young child was all the Rabbi needed and I watched as his friends carried basket after basket of food to everyone on that hill. There seemed to be no end to it yet it was all I could do not to push forward to make sure I had my share.

As I ate I thought about how easily my life is tossed by circumstance. I am poor; I have nothing; I beg; I blame.  I hear the Word spoken to me; suddenly I believe - but a simple ache in the stomach turns me again to worldly wants; to greed; to resentment. 

I turn to wondering why I am here; what really can these words do for me? I am nothing, I have nothing to give. These Words are maybe meant for another better, holier, more powerful person – I am not even worth the crumbs that lie scattered on the floor.

Then I see him again walking with his friends, bending down here and there, a basket under his arm. And I hear him say ‘ pick up all that is left over’ – then he bends and looks into my eyes as he adds ‘ nothing gets wasted’.

Just as an aside because I have this thing with number patterns - probably only works in English?

two fish and five loaves 

two and five syllables

Re-pent and be-lieve the Good News

It was a calculated risk; Jesus would not solve this hunger by himself. The apostles felt they could do nothing - the 'leaders' would not commit anything they had to the care of the people. How could this need be solved out of their own limited understanding? 

It took a child, an innocent yet generous child to make the difference. Someone who had what they 'had' and wondered if it was enough. In  offering Jesus all that he had,  he offered not 'just enough' but more than enough.

We imagine that we are 'just us' that we don't count for very much in the scheme of things. But we are never 'just us' in God's eyes. We are unique, lovely, precious, extraordinary 'us' and when we give all that back to God, as little as we imagine that is,  we can move mountains - feed thousands. As Jesus says, we will perform greater miracles that he ever did. And we will do it by offering all that we are; all that we possess into God's hands - not for ourselves but for others.

The child is barely mentioned - and not mentioned again -  yet without them how could this miracle have happened? 

Without that child, how would the many be fed with so much left over? 

Without that child, how would this be a witness to the divinity of Jesus; to the generosity of the Father? 

Without that child; 

Without you?

“That's what I consider true generosity: You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing.” ― Simone de Beauvoir


Friday, 20 July 2012

Running on empty

Sunday GospelMark 6:30-34 

The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. Then he said to them, ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.

Each person deserves a day away in which no problems are confronted, no solutions searched for.  Each of us needs to withdraw from the cares which will not withdraw from us.” ―Maya Angelou 

There is something in the Catholic psyche that has a need to be busy. Particularly English Catholics seem to have picked up on the puritan attitude of idle hands being automatically possessed by the devil. 

And a lot in everyone's psyche that likes to be recognised for what they have done.

There is also the truth that the Gospel calls us to be 'doing'. There is still much injustice in the world and good intentions are nothing without action. The Church itself - particularly at parish level - relies on 'Martha's' of both sexes. It is all very well, and indeed sometimes patronising, to proclaim that we are human 'beings' not human 'doings'. Sometimes there is work that needs to be done.  The Benedictines, with their maxim of 'ora et labora' - pray and work- seem to understand the need for balance. 

And when the work is prayerful; even when the prayer is part of what we are about; there comes a time when there is a need to rest.

It isn't the apostles but Jesus who recognises that the time has come for them to rest; they are still full of their adventures and successes. They believe they are running on spiritual power - Jesus knows they are running on empty - they have been away from him too long.

Doing God's work does not make you God; though sometimes it is easy for the ego to think so. To imagine that nothing will be done if you are not there to do it; nothing will be right if you are not there to check it; that others will go astray if you are not there to put them on the right path.

Just as Jesus says there are poor always; there are always the poor in spirit; those in need of grace. If they believe you are in touch with the Spirit then it is fair to say that others will come to you; will seek you out. Isn't that what you  are here for? And the answer that we often want to hear is - yes.

Doing God's work does mean making yourself vulnerable; opening your heart; channelling grace to those who need it. 

Sometimes, however, the person who needs it is you; sometimes the time, gentleness and understanding that you give to others you must give to yourself. In rest; in prayer; in meditation; in quiet and lonely places. Trusting in the Lord to take care of all his people - including you. 

Sometimes, all you can do is let go and let God... 

Blessing of the Seventh Day 

Be still
Just once - stop
More than enough
All that you can do
And still more to do?

I know...I know

But now
Now  - stop 

If I can do it 
Why can't you?

Blessed be


Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Feast of Mary Magdalen

The calling of Mary Magdalen

I know that sound
A stranger’s name
Do you not see?
Goodness gone

‘Go now’
Speaking – not to me.
Eyes flash
Claws bury into flesh
A surge of rage
And then,

‘Will you come?’
Foolish question.
The light is not for me
Dark space
Unknowing, unknown
A leper’s curse upon it
I know my place.

‘I have called you’
A silhouette stands
Against my soul’s daybreak
Shadows scoured by sunlight
‘Did you not hear me, Mary?
I have called you by your name
You are mine.’

The 'Why' of Mary Magdalen

She awoke from a curse of sleep; uncertain that she was truly awake or  dreaming of a 'might have been' the demons had denied her. Keeping her eyes closed she waited for the shudder of reality and the shrill laughter that meant she was still forsaken. The world remained but still she did not open her eyes - she had become used to the dark - casting her senses out she felt the warmth of the evening sun weighing down the air in the room; a stillness that suggested a closed door, a curtained window. Voices in the next room; friendly voices sounding back and forth. The tinny clatter of bells and the grumbling of chickens signalled that she was near the back of the house - a storeroom or a workshop perhaps? 

She opened her eyes. The curtain she had rightly imagined,  did not completely shut out the light; feather scraps and dust motes danced in the gentle rays of a setting sun. The light was good enough to see that she was, indeed, in a storeroom of sorts - pots of preserves bound closed with waxed seals, baskets of fruit and vegetables standing guard near the door, wine jars collecting dust in the cool corner. Only just enough room for the cot she was lying on. Simple but far, far better than she was used to. 

She took a slow breath and relaxed the clenched fists resting on her stomach. She felt the soft, spun texture of the robe she had been dressed in. 'An old one of mine' his mother had said gently. When she had resisted the woman had added 'after all you are family, now. Why, we even have the same name.'
She reached one hand up to her hair and ran a length through her fingers; no longer matted and oily, it smelt of rosemary and sunshine. The woman had commented that hair as dark as hers needed rosemary to make it shine; she wondered if her mother had ever known that.

She felt as if she had been scalded; but even as she felt it- she felt healing taking place within and without. She lifted up her arms - smooth now and shining with oil - still crisscrossed with scars where talons had raked into her despair. 'Better leave those,' she thought  'or I will never remember who I am.'
Then laughed at the thought that she had any control over the healing; and laughed again at the sound of her own laughter. 

The sound must have disturbed the group in the outer room; the doorcurtain  moved to one side; the mother came in and sat on the edge of the cot; smiling softly as her eyes scanned her noticing the blossoming wellness in her. 'When you are ready, please come and join us.' The woman returned to the outer room and goodbyes and blessings were passed to and fro - and then quiet.

After a time she pulled herself to a sitting postion and then twisted her legs off the bed. The soles of her feet picking up the warmth of the sandy floor and the gritty texture against the skin. She ran her tongue around her mouth and across her teeth - she was thirsty- perhaps there would be a jug of water just the other side of the threshold. 

As she moved the curtain aside she saw the woman and her son sitting together; their heads nearly touching as they whispered to each other. When they looked up, they both had the same smile. The woman stood up to leave, put her hand on her son's head and kissed him; saying the words of a childhood blessing. 

The water was cool; with sparkles of liquid light and tiny rainbows reflecting off the glaze of the cup. She couldn't remember noticing that about water before but then there was very little that she trusted her memory to. 

She sat on a cushion near the room she had left. The silence held; she relaxed her weight and took a drink. As she lifted the cup she caught his eye.

'You are well.' it was a statement; not a question. He had made her well; she knew that much. Her concern now was what would it cost her.

'Where did they go?'

'The others have gone to stay in my friend Simon's house. We thought you would prefer some quiet.'

She shook her head. 'Not them; the demons. Where did they go?" She shuddered at the thought that some other poor soul may have opened a door to their possession. 'Did you kill them?'

'No,' He gave just a slight shake of the head; a question no-one else had asked, 'they do not die; but they have a place and that is no longer with you; you are safe now.'

She believed him; she knew the spaces where they had lived -  eyes, heart, womb - were cleansed and filled now with something both light and heavy and infinitely good. The silence returned; restful as a summer's night. That she could feel at peace this close to a man...but as soon as she thought it; it faded. It felt that she stood apart as every moment of cruelty, misplaced passion, rage or loss found release with each outward breath -shades into mists.

What next? What could she offer as thanks for this salvation? What could she say that would keep her close to this man and his quiet healing presence?

A whispered plea; 'I know I can never repay you; but perhaps if you would take me as a servant? There are so many others such as me. I know where they live; where they suffer as I have. If you can heal me then maybe,  if you were willing,you will let me take you to them. I could care for them... with you.'

How did she dare?

He gazed at her. In his heart, a silent prayer of thanks to Abba. 'Mary, you and I are both servants; perhaps though,  you could take me as your friend.


Saturday, 14 July 2012

Nothing ventured II

First readingAmos 7:12-15 
Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, said to Amos, ‘Go away, seer;’ get back to the land of Judah; earn your bread there, do your prophesying there. We want no more prophesying in Bethel; this is the royal sanctuary, the national temple.’ ‘I was no prophet, neither did I belong to any of the brotherhoods of prophets,’ Amos replied to Amaziah ‘I was a shepherd, and looked after sycamores: but it was the Lord who took me from herding the flock, and the Lord who said, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.” ― John Muir

I don't often reflect on the Old Testament part of the Sunday readings but I have a soft spot for Amos ever since I first noticed this reading and spent the rest of the Mass imagining him as a shepherd in a Tolkien-esque landscape where trees were like Ents and needed to be shepherded to stop them going over cliffs and getting lost in the wastelands; something of an imaginative child.

As I discovered, in the area where Amos lived the land was fairly generous and sheep did not have to go far for good grazing.  Sycamore trees grow well even in poor soil - see any unclaimed piece of wasteland to know that. Their eagerness for growth and their straight grained wood makes them ideal for coppicing; for fence and tent posts, for ploughs and tool handles. 

An ideal pairing then with the trees offering shade and grazing and the sheep keeping the land clear for the young saplings to grow straight and tall. 

Amos was a minor prophet - which in itself is surely an oxymoron? How can someone who speaks God's word possibly be considered a minor anything?

I imagine him as a gentle but dour man; a man with a rhythm to his life;  not much of a talker; someone not comfortable around people or away from the wide skies and starry nights. A man who prays whilst he works and sees the fruits of his work as his prayer to the God he calls Lord of Hosts.

Though he says it about himself; he is a no-one; not a prophet; not one of line of prophets. In a time when God did walk and talk amongst His people and there were others more 'qualified' to do God's work - God picks Amos.

I imagined the conversation with Amos' reply to God's request -

'Lord, I can smell the rain and tell the winter's length by the skeins of geese; I can see the twist in the grain where the wood will crack; I can find a sheep in a winter's storm and safely birth twins to a yearling. You want a prophet? Go to the temple; find a priest; I'm a shepherd who knows wood.'

God knew who God wanted. God wanted someone who read the weather; knew the right path; knew the value of life. God wanted Amos to read the signs of the times in a language people would understand; not priest babble; not temple talk.

And Amos saw this was his mission; to be himself. The Book of Amos, which calls Israel to renewal, is the book of a farmer, a shepherd, a dresser of sycamores.

How often we undervalue the gifts that God gives us; papering them over with qualifications; authorities and titles? When what we have is exactly what we need.

Just as the apostles are sent out - to offer reconciliation when they could barely spend two minutes together without thunder. Which meant they recognised the need; had experienced the grace of forgiveness; knew that life was not so simple; knew what they were talking about.

It is in what we regard as our inadequacies that God works; in our weaknesses that God has strength. In being who we are that God makes himself known.

In Jesus' name

“To dwellers in a wood, almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature.” ― Thomas Hardy


Nothing ventured

Sunday GospelMark 6:7-13 
Jesus summoned the Twelve and began to send them out in pairs giving them authority over the unclean spirits. And he instructed them to take nothing for the journey except a staff – no bread, no haversack, no coppers for their purses. They were to wear sandals but, he added, ‘Do not take a spare tunic.’ And he said to them, ‘If you enter a house anywhere, stay there until you leave the district. And if any place does not welcome you and people refuse to listen to you, as you walk away shake off the dust from under your feet as a sign to them.’ So they set off to preach repentance; and they cast out many devils, and anointed many sick people with oil and cured them.

“What happens when people open their hearts?"...
"They get better.” ― 
Haruki Murakami,

To begin with the Twelve; this is one of the pieces of scripture that suggests that there are those that are especially chosen to carry out the work of Jesus. That these twelve people hand down their priestly vocation from one to another - to the exclusion of others. Just as the Hebrew priest caste of the Kohen were given authority through their bloodline back to Aaron.

Thinking about other understandings of reading the Gospel I wonder if this is true; if, in fact, the very opposite is true.

It is believed that Jesus chooses twelve apostles as a way of rebirthing the twelve tribes of Israel - a new beginning. The way of bloodlines and lineage and privilege has gone - now everyone, no matter who they are, are God's chosen people; once they choose to follow Jesus.

The apostles represent the sum of us all. The difference and the diversity; the academic and the practical; the doubter and the faithful; the young turk and the wise elder. When Jesus summons the Twelve he summons everyone; there are no favourites or favoured - if you follow Jesus then be prepared - you will be sent.

Christianity is made up of journeys - the wanderings of Jesus are a pattern for our lives of faith.  If left to ourselves, we may put off leaving the comfort of our homes or our mindset until we are ready. There is always something else we might need; just in case.

Jesus says:
No, you are ready now; you have everything you need. 

Travelling in in the comfort of like-minded people may give you security but not courage. 
Having provisions means you may not ask for help; so how can people offer theirs? 
Being self-sufficient - how will you understand the needs of others; appreciate the hospitality of strangers. 
Knowing where you are, where you are going, means that you may not notice the lesser path, the person in need, and the place you should be. 
Having these things may make others resent you and may make you judge them.

In taking nothing, you will take everything I and my Father have given you. 

In taking nothing you will know that all you need is me. 
In taking nothing all you can give is me. 
Your journey, your mission, is to take me, my Father and the Spirit out into the world. 
 Take nothing else.

This is Jesus’ voice speaking to us, challenging us not to settle for anything less; not to wrap ourselves in security; not to be complacent because we are alright – in our family – in our parish – in our community.

For when he sends you out with only himself – it is because that is all you need.

In Jesus' name

In a futile attempt to erase our past, we deprive the community of our healing gift. If we conceal our wounds out of fear and shame, our inner darkness can neither be illuminated nor become a light for others.” ― Brennan Manning


Monday, 9 July 2012

Lured by Love

First reading of today's Mass

Hosea 2:16;17-18,21,22

It is the Lord who speaks:
I am going to lure her
and lead her out into the wilderness
and speak to her heart.
I am going to give her back her vineyards,
and make the Valley of Achor a gateway of hope.
There she will respond to me as she did when she was young,
as she did when she came out of the land of Egypt.
When that day comes – it is the Lord who speaks –
she will call me, ‘My husband’,
no longer will she call me, ‘My Baal.’
I will betroth you to myself for ever,
betroth you with integrity and justice,
with tenderness and love;
I will betroth you to myself with faithfulness,
and you will come to know the Lord.

The imperative of the Mission in Mark's Gospel has been having it's effect on me. 

When we first began studying Mark in our scripture group we chose some words to fit -  hard work, mission, sacrifice, movement, vision; words that demanded a lot from us. 

It's not easy to live this sort of life; the world doesn't encourage me to; friends and family don't want me to; my own ego even struggles with it. 

One way of trying to live out the intention is to set boundaries and disciplines. Ways of behaving that tell me and others that I am getting it right - when this happens I am fortunate to be reminded that I am getting it wrong. 

Taking control of my faith is just never good for me; the rules I set to judge myself by I quickly use to judge others. I develop an attitude of privilege; the right to reward and punishment - even if it's just in my head - and how my heart suffers from this superiority complex.

On Friday, my church was host to the relic of the heart of St John Vianney - the patron of parish priests and a great Confessor and seer of souls. Venerating relics is not a spirituality I usually connect with; I kept myself busy enough and it was only at the end of the evening that I found myself in the line and kneeling before this silver casket holding the heart of a human being. I practically dared it to speak to me; and John, or the Lord, took the dare. And the reply was not some fire and brimstone rage that often seems to accompany the saint's history but a message of great gentleness and compassion.

The Mission is love. I tend to think I know this but every now and again I need to be reminded of what this really means. The Mission is love. Love that is both inside and outside the the boundaries and disciplines; love for the unloveable;  the unacceptable; the judged and found wanting - in others and in me. Love that is not me but moves through me - if I can only let it. 

God watches me building these castles of control and sighs; God perseveres with me - whispering into my heart whilst I sleep; fleeting glimpses when I am awake. Vocation is not enlistment it is surrender. I am reminded and try again to be the servant; the watchful handmaid; lamp at the ready; to be waiting at the window eager to be lured away to be given the true gift of mission - to know how to love tenderly by letting myself be tenderly loved.

In Jesus' name


Saturday, 7 July 2012

Sand in your shoes

Sunday GospelMark 6:1-6

Jesus went to his home town and his disciples accompanied him. With the coming of the sabbath he began teaching in the synagogue and most of them were astonished when they heard him. They said, ‘Where did the man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been granted him, and these miracles that are worked through him? This is the carpenter, surely, the son of Mary, the brother of James and Joset and Jude and Simon? His sisters, too, are they not here with us?’ And they would not accept him. And Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is only despised in his own country, among his own relations and in his own house’; and he could work no miracle there, though he cured a few sick people by laying his hands on them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

'when your heart gets broken you begin to see the cracks in everything. Tragedy may want to harden us but the mission is to never let it'

This Sunday we are hosting the Annual Shrewsbury Diocese APF Mass. It celebrates the support that the community of Shrewsbury gives to the APF; missionaries in parts of the world where to be a Christian, let alone Catholic, is a journey of conversion, courage, faith and the inspiring energy of the Holy Spirit.

The Missionaries who follow their vocation under hostile and challenging regimes live out the radical truth of the Gospel every day of their ministry; their focus has moved from the 'saving of souls' to living the 'Christ experience' in everything they do - in community, in eucharist, in living and praying.

It is true to say that when these Missionaries retire - they don't retire - they commute. Finding ways of supporting their ministry to return as volunteers; to stay involved with personal projects. They don't find 'coming home' comfortable - they have got used to having sand in their shoes. And they are not always comfortable to be around.

Missionaries tend to have a lot of 'prophet' in their character. Prophets are not fortune tellers; their gift is paying attention; the unfavourable side of the gift is that reading the 'signs of the times' means needing to do something about it.

For friends and family, this is far more acceptable when the prophet is elsewhere. It is important to many people to feel in control of their lives; they don't need their motives questioned or their consciences pricked especially by one of their own. No-one appreciates their friend, cousin, next-door-neighbour telling them what is missing in their lives; the mirror is too honest that close to home. 

That's what the world does; setting out what is acceptable and giving out authority on its own terms. To belong means playing the game, knowing the rules and knowing your place.

If we take following Jesus seriously it will be hard. His rules are few but insistent and give no mind to hierarchy.  We will be criticised as an amateur, a do-gooder, a busybody. But when we are called, we cannot deny it and we have to do, tell, be – no matter what. 

I was asked recently where this unworldly attitude came from? Why anyone would continually 'give' themselves away despite the criticism, exclusion and the discomfort of not fitting in?

A week and a Gospel later I would say not only should we give ourselves away but that what we give away should be the very best of ourselves. And to do that, means to find the voice; the place and the people where we belong. That place may still have its challenges and its discomforts - may have more.  

But if we are called then we will be missionaries, pilgrims and prophets in other lands.

'a church, taking on the mission of Jesus, does not judge humanity, but loves it'


Monday, 2 July 2012

Thomas and Me

John 20

Thomas, called the Twin, who was one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. When the disciples said, ‘We have seen the Lord’, he answered, ‘Unless I see the holes that the nails made in his hands and can put my finger into the holes they made, and unless I can put my hand into his side, I refuse to believe.’ Eight days later the disciples were in the house again and Thomas was with them. The doors were closed, but Jesus came in and stood among them. ‘Peace be with you’ he said. Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands. Give me your hand; put it into my side. Doubt no longer but believe.’ Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him:
‘You believe because you can see me.
Happy are those who have not seen and yet believe.’

It is difficult to know what to say about this Gospel that hasn't been said before.
Thomas the Doubter is given to us as a person who questions- the 'everyman' who, after this encounter with the Risen Lord, is able to make the great proclaimation of faith 'My Lord and My God'.

John, you may know, is the poet of the Gospels, the wordsmith. Like me, he never uses one word when a verse will do. 

And he is clever- he uses words with more than one meaning - he plays on our understanding. One of the words he most like to play with is 'see' - given that it can mean; physical seeing with the eyes, knowing and understanding, or spiritual encountering.

In spiritual encountering there are many levels but two you may have heard of are consolation and desolation. Very briefly these are the times when we are spiritually and often physically and emotionally aware of the presence or absence of God. The presence - consolation - is pure gift and grace - because after that there is no 'doubt' and, so, even when desolation comes - the sense of absence - you know who is absent. The absence may cause distress but the sheer fact that you miss God means that God exists.

And actually, we cannot believe in a Jesus we have not seen, any of us. We can learn the words, read the stories, follow the instructions. We can hope and we can pray. And we can do that every day, all of our lives. We can be active for social justice, we can live in a Christian culture, we can belong and be involved in a parish - all very good, all very human. Perhaps to believe in the human Jesus - the Nazarene - is enough to make us want to just be better people - as he was 'the best of us'.

We don't need to believe in a Risen Christ for that. But to take the journey that step further - to enter into God, for God to enter into me - I have to see - encounter the Cosmic everythingness of Christ who is also Jesus. And that is not just with eyes, fingers, hands but with heart and soul and every atom of who I am. Even just once, to know the Presence, to recognise the Absence. To be happy to believe.