Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Eye Witnesses

Opening Prayer

Here I am Lord,
Listening
Speak to me
within my heart and soul.
I am listening.



Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians 2:14


‘in Christ, God leads us from place to place’

Reflection

You have to ask yourself; what would you do if you had just risen from the dead? After all you had gone through and suffered –then to return to those people you thought were friends; who had said that they would stand by you and didn’t. Who had seemed to understand and didn’t. Would you be walking in the dust and dirt of a country road; would you be eating fish; would you be cooking fish?

Almost the absurdity of this proves that Jesus is not just human – our pride, our ego would not have allowed us to do this; our feeling of superiority would have got the better of us. At the very least, we would have floated gracefully above the ground, a banquet would have been magicked out of thin air. We would have looked like the god we though we were.

But if Jesus had done this; if the Christ that he became had done this; what would that have said? That it’s ok to be poor until you are not poor, that it’s ok to be the underdog until you are not the underdog, that coming nearer to God means being better than other people? That it’s ok to be human until you are divine and then being human is not good enough. But Jesus never stops being human and his divinity is no more or no less and he will not belittle himself by belittling us.

So he shows us that the journey continues and he is still there taking part in it all - the dusty roads between the world and the Kingdom, the sharing of food, the serving of others. He seeks us out in hidden corners and when we are about our work; when we are confused, when we are doubtful and when we are scared.

There is no place he will not come looking for us. He finds us no matter where we hide; he tells us not to be afraid and he leads us out.
He is always the Way; the lodestone. Only instead of a few hundred people in a dusty middle-eastern desert, he now leads all who hear his call; across time, across space; the guide to Kingdom and to the Father of us all.



Contemplation
Follow

These post Resurrection days can seem to drag. Why doesn’t Jesus simply eclipse the disciples with his radiance as the Holy Spirit is able to energise them all at Pentecost?

Well, maybe that would be just too much of a shock to the system. After all, if you have just taken the Lenten journey the disciples took, with all their hopes and dreams shattered, their fears realised, their friend and Lord executed; to have him back must have been beyond belief. But he was not back for good – they still weren’t going to get the ‘worldly’ Kingdom of wealth and honour, in fact their world was going to get decidedly worse.

Would Christ the ‘King’ have been a better image than Christ the fisherman – I don’t think so. If Jesus was ever doing to leave his message with them then it had to be as the man they knew – so they would know that it had not been an act, a game.

Christ needs to remind them (and us) that it is not finished; that there is a journey ahead of them and that he will be with them, leading them on; so where better than in the places where they are experiencing their fears and their doubts?

A forty day Lenten journey is not so easily reversed, and we should not feel tempted to try. The walk into Easter taught us things we needed to know; we should not lose sight of them in our rush to move on.

Closing Prayer

May the blessing of the Sacred Three
The Father who gave us the Word
The Son who is the Word
The Spirit who opens the Word within us
Be with us today and evermore.Amen

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Who are you looking for?

Here I am Lord,
Listening
Speak to me
within my heart and soul.
I am listening.



John 20:14


Who are you looking for?

Reflection

How strange to be the only one here who mourns.

Is it so easy to forget? Is our own safety so much more important? Those that said they would die with him – hiding behind shutters in darkened rooms. No matter, the whole world is dark to me now and I sit with just words of hope.

The guards have left for their beds; they have had no need of their swords. But see; the stone rolled away. Will they have taken him? Will there be further humiliation to prove that we cannot stand against the Roman Empire? But where, where has he gone?

A shadow crosses my eye line; perhaps one of the others, perhaps a gardener. Perhaps not a gentleman – to ask so starkly ‘Who are you looking for?’ But he may be my only hope, so I reply and then - he speaks my name.

Master, Rabbi, Lord, friend, my life, my heart – it is him – how could I not have seen, not recognised?

But not him – or rather less the man he was and more the promise that had been held within; unguarded; exuberant as joy, as delight. Divine Life, Divine Light. So much more and yet the wounds – he will not forget, will not allow himself the mercy of forgetting – what he suffered, the sacrifice he made - he wears them still. He will wear them always – this was no god’s folly, easily forgotten, easily mended.

This Son of God, Son of Man, bore the life he was given, as we do, and remembers, as we do – except for him it will be for all of Time – the suffering, the dying, the rising but all of it outdone by the Love that lives within him for us, for all of us.

How easy to have stayed by his side, to forget the pain, to forget the world - but that is not his way. By his simple commandment he sends me – to love others as myself; to go and tell of his return. To give hope, to give truth, to bring the message of eternal life.



Contemplation
Expectation

You would wonder why it was only one person who seemed to get ‘it’. That the Resurrection that Jesus told them would happen in three days – really was going to occur?

We do most things in community in our faith, we pray, we worship, we celebrate the Mass that Jesus gave us mostly as a community – even if it is just two or three gathered in his name.

But maybe, there are times when the meeting needs to be more personal, more direct. After all, you are unique; the life spread before you is only yours; your relationship with your God is as individual as between any two who love each other.

So sometimes, you can’t be with the others, you hear your name called and despite everything, you have to go. Even then it may not be so easy – finding time to sit; to search your heart; to wait until the time is right.

But when the time is right you will have that meeting with Jesus who is not only man but the Cosmic Christ- who fills everything, including you, with Light - the meeting that will change your life; your perception; your heart and that, no doubt, will send you out to tell the others.


Closing Prayer
May the blessing of the Sacred Three
The Father who gave us the Word
The Son who is the Word
The Spirit who opens the Word within us
Be with us today and evermore.

Amen

Monday, 20 April 2009

Take the long way home

Gospel
John 3:1-8
There was one of the Pharisees called Nicodemus, a leading Jew, who came to Jesus by night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who comes from God; for no one could perform the signs that you do unless God were with him.’ Jesus answered:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born from above,
he cannot see the kingdom of God.’
Nicodemus said, ‘How can a grown man be born? Can he go back into his mother’s womb and be born again?’ Jesus replied:


‘I tell you most solemnly,
unless a man is born through water and the Spirit,
he cannot enter the kingdom of God:
what is born of the flesh is flesh;
what is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Do not be surprised when I say:
You must be born from above.
The wind blows wherever it pleases;
you hear its sound,
but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.
That is how it is with all who are born of the Spirit.’


And here is a Before the Resurrection, Resurrection story. The Lord telling us what happens when the Spirit is added to flesh and blood. The rebirth, the resurrection of who we are. Yet we are all born of God, aren't we? All held in His Hand, known before we were in our mother's womb. So what else happens? What does the promise of Pentecost bring us that we didn't already have?

As part of my prayer and meditation group I often use two images;- one, Paul's lesson that we do not need buildings because we ourselves are temples, in us is God-in-Us. People of course have different ideas about where this is -heart, mind, gut, all the spaces in between.

For the meditation I also use the idea of the labyrinth -the winding path that leads deeper and more inward, without danger or the risk of getting lost - it is our own journey that takes the time it takes.

If you are able to make the journey then, in some form, you do encounter the Divine, it may be for a second, you may experience whole conversations , it may be a peace that you have never know before. No-one has ever felt nothing. And this is wonderful.

I suppose that what can then happen is that this place becomes a secure site - a tabernacle within yourself for you to go to when you need that time, that peace, that space. That is God space but that is not how the Spirit works.

The Holy Spirit, the Breath of God, is not containable. If you meet her in your inner space, then you are blessed and you will have opened something much bigger than a genii from a bottle. You do not get to leave the Spirit behind. When you make the journey back through the labyrinth she will come with you and you will be different, as the disciples were different. It is part of the tranformation, as Jesus moves on into his Cosmic presence, the Spirit encourages us to be more, in fact I sometimes think that this was why Jesus left; we got too comfortable, in a way so did he, with his humanity - we were meant to become something more; to be driven by the Spirit as Jesus himself was.

And also

The labyrinth brought another idea to mind, particularly for anyone still not getting the Resurrection euphoria. Deliberately or otherwise, Lent is very much like the labyrinth, leading us in, encouraging the descent, the journey into the darkness. Not sinister, because we know where we are going and we have prayed for the journey but nevertheless it can be a unique experience sitting in the centre clearing, saddened beyond hope, waiting in the dark, feeling the stone cool and the damp of the night as we wait through the Vigil. And when the morning come and He is Risen, we are there alone, wondering maybe like Thomas and the journeyers from Emmaus what it was all about.

If we are lucky maybe we get the Mary Magdalen experience and the Lord comes to us first.

That hasn't happened to me very often. Usually it is the wondering - I believe He is Risen, so where is He then? And you then have to leave the waiting space to find the place of encounter. If the descent has been hard, if you really 'got' it, can I please suggest that you go carefully in your seeking. Because a labyrinth is a simple path of twists it can be tempting to jump the walls. To go for the 'crow flies' route, rather than the meandering that brought you there. But this can be much too disorientating, how can a forty day journey be reversed in a few days? There are fifty days to Pentecost, with plenty of time for small encounters, for prayer, for thinking, for going back over the steps we took and seeing the changes that have been wrought.

Please, take the time, take the journey.

wordinthehand2009

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Without Doubt

Gospel
John 20:19-31

In the evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.
‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’
After saying this he breathed on them and said:
‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’


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.’
There were many other signs that Jesus worked and the disciples saw, but they are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you may have life through his name.


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

But, I have found, that Scripture always has something else to say - so I had to read it again and actually the person I am having problems with this year is Jesus.

For a couple of reasons which will prove what a hedgerow scholar of theology I really am - but here we go:-

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.

John is writing to 'after the event' Christians. People who will never 'see' Jesus with their eyes, their fingers and their hands. So maybe this is a bad translation and should mean that
'blessed are those who have not had physical contact with Jesus and yet believe'?
Which given many of our translations is more than likely.

Otherwise, Jesus, the truth is - there won't be many happy people.
I play a game in school where I tell the students that I don't believe that Australia exists. They have families there, they have visited, they show me artifacts, they find it on the internet, they send me postcards and they become great evangelists and I 'start to think I might believe'. But I know that believing and knowing about Australia will never be as good as 'seeing' it.

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. 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.

wordinthehand2009

Thursday, 16 April 2009

See for yourselves

Gospel
Luke 24:35-48

The disciples told their story of what had happened on the road and how they had recognised him at the breaking of bread.
They were still talking about all this when he himself stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you!’ In a state of alarm and fright, they thought they were seeing a ghost. But he said, ‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts rising in your hearts? Look at my hands and feet; yes, it is I indeed. Touch me and see for yourselves; a ghost has no flesh and bones as you can see I have.’ And as he said this he showed them his hands and feet. Their joy was so great that they still could not believe it, and they stood there dumbfounded; so he said to them, ‘Have you anything here to eat?’ And they offered him a piece of grilled fish, which he took and ate before their eyes.
Then he told them, ‘This is what I meant when I said, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses, in the Prophets and in the Psalms has to be fulfilled.’ He then opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them, ‘So you see how it is written that the Christ would suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that, in his name, repentance for the forgiveness of sins would be preached to all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses to this.


We have trouble believing anything these days so we can't feel too badly about the disciples. Actually that's not true - we can believe in lots of rubbish - ghost TV, fortune tellers, the Da Vinci Code and so did the disciples - their world was full of shades, spirits and demons.

And if they saw the Risen Christ then this was probably what they were expecting - a possessed body, something intangible, a shiver up and down their spine. But that wasn't what appeared before them. Christ appeared from nowhere but then spoke; and not only spoke but ate - real food that was given to him, not conjured up.

And still hard for the disciples to believe? Of course it is, it had never happened before, it was beyond belief - except it was true.

I am still overcome, more than halfway through Easter week now, how quietly and ordinarily Christ did this. This is the Resurrection - have you ever seen a painting or work of art that has treated this event so casually as Christ himself does? There's always light, clouds, angels, an exuberance of something - but when Christ does it - it's just him - him being the 'more than enough'.

That God would choose to spend a lifetime as a human being I can understand; we are meant to be his greatest works; I can imagine the joy he must have felt at experiencing the world he made.

That he then makes the next choice - to surrender and die - not a God thing to do, at all. The 'why ' of that is much harder to imagine. And that he did it for us? I am human, thinking like a God is a mystery to me.

That he then is resurrected as all he was, scars, wounds and all, still human , still Divine and can hold Time and Space in one hand, whilst eating fish with the other. Probably broken every God law that he ever made (but he's God - so that's ok). That's definitely a God thing to do - quite, quite beyond me and whilst I am inspired to spend hours meditating on it - I hope I never 'get' it.

Jesus the Nazarene is a man that I love, and I can see the God-ness in him as I can see the Charism in others. He is a teacher, a brother, someone I would love to sit by the campfire and eat with. That the Risen Christ, holds the All of Everything together yet wants to sit and eat with me?

I am beginning to feel that the Resurrection is a bit like one of those Faberge eggs that you see.
Lovely but a little plain on the outside, but inside .... bejewelled, dazzling, exquisite, beyond imagination into fascination - right where God should be.

wordinthehand2009

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

Prayer Ways

We have morning prayer before Mass and this morning, being the Anniversary of Hillsborough, and us being a Merseyside parish - there were many heartfelt personal prayers for victims, survivors and families. The emotions of all those present were evident from the heartfelt tones and hesitations in the voices.

This type of vocal and implusive prayer is quite unusual in Catholic churches and I have been thinking since about how we really pray. There are, of course, dozens of ways, ritually, vocally, musically, communally and personally but the prayer is only ever about the line of communication between you and God and what is that like?

Modern technology means that there are many methods of communication available yet people still sit alone in houses; feel alone in a crowd; have no-one to visit; no-one to understand; no-one to turn to. The line of communication may exist but it takes two, and maybe it has to be the right two, too.

The thing with modern technology is that communication has become a game; a pastime; a way to get attention; to prove you have more friends. And I suppose that that's a way to pray.

Like Facebook, you can create your own Godspace, the world where you and God are at, at the moment. You create an avatar of yourself, the perfect you. never grumpy or dowdy; always in a good mood; doing good deeds; living a good life. And you can spend the day planning what you are going to pray, looking for quotes, writing poetry, finding that right piece of music that will show God how wonderful you are. And then you go 'on-line' and amaze God and all your friends with your spirituality, your grace, your obviously blessed relationship with the Lord of All. God in hyperspace- as distant and insubstantial as you can be - both him and yourself.

Or prayer can come down to the most basic of communication - speech, listening and silence - like a meeting at a 12 step programme - when you don't know if you really want to be there but you know you have to and all you have brought is yourself. When you are known for who you really are, what you have really done and what you really need. When tears are welcome and a handshake can heal and none of it is down to you.

Perhaps, when we think God isn't listening, it's because he doesn't recognise who speaking to Him; or the 'God' we are speaking to doesn't exist?

Praying from the heart takes practice, time and honesty. And,yes, why not use all the gifts ands talents you have to pray with music, with poetry, with art; but always - always - try to pray with your 'self'.

wordinthehand2009

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Gone before

Mark 16:1-8
When the sabbath was over, Mary of Magdala, Mary the mother of James, and Salome, bought spices with which to go and anoint him. And very early in the morning on the first day of the week they went to the tomb, just as the sun was rising.
They had been saying to one another, ‘Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?’ But when they looked they could see that the stone – which was very big – had already been rolled back. On entering the tomb they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right-hand side, and they were struck with amazement. But he said to them, ‘There is no need for alarm. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified: he has risen, he is not here. See, here is the place where they laid him. But you must go and tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going before you to Galilee; it is there you will see him, just as he told you.”’


Happy Easter and how is it for you. Did you wake up with the brightest of new dawns and a joyful dawn chorus? Did the bleakness of Lent disappear with the knowledge that the Resurrected Christ is remembered this day?

I have to say that I didn't. Some of the Lenten feeling, which actually preceded Lent, had not gone away. Yet I took part in every step of the journey that the church offered me and, I thought, more besides. I was disappointed - I try not to believe in magic - but I was hoping for some.

Then I heard the morning's Gospel and it came to me. It is not a Resurrection heralded with fireworks or even a multitude of angels; it is not Jesus walking on air into Jerusalem to rebuild the Temple; it is not a mass revolution of faith and belief.

There is such a quietness to the Resurrection; the natural dawn - no special star or eclipse; the stone rolled away - not blasted. The God of the weak, the unwanted, the unclean, the unworthy still will not put himself above us. He is, even more so, where we are. Jesus simply came back as he left - with the humility of a servant - and he went home.

So if you didn't find him in the pomp and circumstance of the Easter Mass perhaps, like me, you were looking in the wrong place. Perhaps you need to sit quietly and seek him in your home, in your place, in your inner God space. Because, if you ever need him - that's as far as you will need to look.

wordinthehand2009

The Friday Feeling

Here I am Lord,
Listening
Speak to me
within my heart and soul.
I am listening.



Luke 23:46


Father, into Your hands


Reflection
Why?

I remember, Lord, the ‘Come and See’. Remember, I came; following, listening, learning. Full of joy, full of hope – the New Day was going to dawn, the Kingdom of God was near.

I did not come to ‘see’ this, Lord; standing ankle deep in the waste of the city, tears streaming silently down my face, my mouth full of blood as I bite down on my tongue to stop myself from crying out. For I do not want these others to know that I know you.

I don’t know you.

The fear, the demons, the hopelessness is back and you are not here to save me. The crowd shouts out to you ‘Save yourself’ and I truly believe that you could – even now, you could. But it seems you are taking yourself out of this world. Your light is too bright for them and they have closed their eyes against it.

What sort of plan was this? You had driven me here with the message of love and forgiveness. But who got the message? The plan has gone wrong. If not, how is it right? The meek were going to inherit but all I have is this hill, the town dump. Was this what I was supposed to see?

Then a sound, perhaps just a cry on the wind; ‘Abba’. That you still call Him this, now, when surely, if He were here, He could just reach down and lift you out of this. Under my breath, I begin to say the words, the prayer you taught me. And at the end, ‘deliver us from evil’ - if you are here Abba, take your Son –deliver him from the evil that we have all done this day.

The wind drops and this time I know it is your voice – ‘Father, into your hands’. The wind rises, hot and as sudden as a sirocco; and you are gone. And, at that moment, I know in my soul - there is no power on earth that can save; at the end, not even you. Only the Father has that power, only the Father can call us home.


Father, into your hands…

Contemplation
That Friday Feeling

I apologise, at the joyful climax to this great Feast, that I drag us back to Good Friday. But I have found that any journey is best remembered by the challenge met against all the odds, what went wrong rather than what went right, the thing you thought you would never do. And, indeed the great joy of today is intensified by the memory of how bad it has been.

If we cast our thoughts back to the anticipation surrounding Christmas; remembering those days before a birth, especially a difficult birth, especially when the outcome is not guaranteed to be a happy one. When you find hidden strength, when your heart lives only on hope, when you pray with every fibre of your body, like the woman who only touched the robe of Jesus, believing with the greatest of faith that God is present, that healing is possible.

And it is; and it happens; divinity that was hidden within humanity is transformed and now wraps humanity with divinity; and as much as there was agony and blackness there is the brightest of new dawn and the joy of new life.

The journey through the desert has left sand in our shoes so that we are always reminded what we are waiting for; the waiting ends here, waiting in joyful hope begins here,


Closing Prayer

May the blessing of the Sacred Three
The Father who gave us the Word
The Son who is the Word
The Spirit who opens the Word within us
Be with us today and evermore.Amen


wordinthehand2009

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Sitting through Saturday

We are an impatient people. The Great Vigil Mass, meant to finish with the new day starts around 7.00/8.00pm so we are celebrating the Resurrection and home in time for hot chocolate and Match of the Day. This, of course, is me being flippant - a tone that creeps in when I am bothered by something.

The something is the waiting, not a thing I am good at to be honest, I can meditate for hours....but waiting always brings out the 'there must be something I can be doing' in me.
But today, there is nothing else. We do not create the Resurrection, the Risen Christ is not for us to conjure up. It is for the Father to give back the life that was surrendered.

And really, why should He? Imagine our God, as big as you can imagine, beyond what you can imagine. Imagine our God of Trinity, dancing in love and life since forever, and one of Him is lost, for us. The gyroscope of power unbalanced, winding down, all because we don't know how much we mean to Him. Was three days the limit that they could be disjoined, are we just talking mystical numbers? The Father had to bring Jesus back for the sake of the Trinity, otherwise God truly is dead, for ever. And then what? Scary thought.

The Resurrection is a gift to us, Divine Power with full knowledge of human weakness, we should try to deserve it. I used to live in hope of being like Mary Magdalen, the one who didn't give up, the one who was called to witness. This Lent I have had more in common with Peter; too, too human, never quite understanding, never quite brave enough. But like Peter I am going to try. We are Easter people, with sand in our shoes from the Lenten journey, a shared suffering and a light in our hearts from the Truth of the Resurrection.

Not long to wait now.

wordinthehand2009

Sunday, 5 April 2009

End in Sight

Opening Prayer

Here I am Lord,
Listening
Speak to me
within my heart and soul.
I am listening.



Matthew 26:40
‘Could you not watch with Me?’



Reflection

Here we are, those that are left, at the foothills; the boundary between the desert and civilisation. Behind us miles of nothingness, scarifying winds and sand rubbing our bodies raw; emptying our minds of colour; the need to survive has taken away the desire for the world’s enticements. We are content that we simply live.

Ahead of us, the next part of the journey; what seemed to be the goal but now I am not so sure; the well travelled road to the city gates then on to what lies beyond.

What lies beyond?

It’s not been that long, only a couple of weeks, but it seems a lifetime since he made the invitation ‘Come and See’. That’s what worries me now. His words always seem so simple, so obvious; ‘Love your neighbour’, ‘forgive’, ‘be as children’. Quiet words, tattooed onto your heart, impossible to ignore, impossible sometimes to obey.

Sadness in his eyes; more than I have ever seen: ‘Could you not watch with me?’

A strange request. A last request?

If this is it, why don’t we just stay here? The desert is hard but the way ahead looks harder. Here we would be safe, isolated, away from those who can hurt us. But for how long? Until our bones lie bleached in the sun and our story is as ephemeral as our ghosts calling out across the dunes?

If he is able to say ‘yes’, despite the forebodings, if he is able to walk willingly into his future; how can I say it is too much simply to watch, to be a witness?

He is already making his way through the brush, always the leader, showing the way. Just the thought of him leaving me makes my heart jump, pushing me down the slope after him.
I know it is not going to be so simple, but I will try, I will be there to ‘watch’.


Contemplation
The next step

If Lent has been a real journey for you, through abstinence; through prayer; through challenge; then it is possible that, by now, you have got quite used to the discipline and the austerity of a desert life. It may feel almost inviting to stay here.

Because, as we follow the cycle the Church gives us, we know that the triumph and celebration that will meet us at the gates of the golden city is not going to last.

We are introduced to Holy Week with a fanfare and fireworks, almost a shock to the system, bringing us out of our quietness and reflection into a dramatic series of extraordinary events.

It would be a total dismissal of the past few weeks to simply bury our heads and wait for the glory of the Resurrection. We have walked the walk and deserve our place at the Lord’s side, for as long as we can bear it, as long as we can be the new witnesses to His journey. The conversion in our hearts that has taken place over Lent allows us to see with new eyes; to take in the mystery. As every sunset captivates us even though we know the day will come again, try to live this week transformed by every moment, every betrayal, every sadness.

As though we did not live in sure and certain hope….


Closing Prayer
May the blessing of the Sacred Three
The Father who gave us the Word
The Son who is the Word
The Spirit who opens the Word within us
Be with us today and evermore.
Amen


wordinthehand2009

Getting Personal IV

Now that I can start to see improvements in my son's health, the visit to the Hospital restaurant is turning into something of a people watching experience. As they say - all human life is here. And I am learning the trick of seeming to look one way whilst my gaze is concentrated on another.

Today I watched a young woman following a complicated ritual surrounded by the ebb and flow of the staff and 'sleeping in parents'. I had a hunch, based on prior experience, that this was someone with an eating disorder and my observations seemed to prove me right.

She was very calculating in her design. She took a table for four and put something, a coat, bag, briefcase (she did appear to be staff rather than visitor) on each of the chairs. Then she made two visits to the counters returning with the basics of four meals which she set out in front of each chair. When she was happy with the layout she sat down and ate the first of the meals, disappeared; returned with an extra coffee which replaced the finished meal; sat at another chair and ate the next meal; and so on... She made sure that she choregraphed her movements and the condition of the table so that no-one would notice -she always seemed to be waiting for someone. All this time she was scanning the room in case someone was watching, I managed to deflect my gaze a few times, then wondered if I should acknowledge her..but then what?
This event was a practiced ritual that had lasted how many weeks or months? In this moment she probably felt in control of her compulsion, maybe she was. Would her noticing that I had noticed 'rock the boat'.

I decided that I was best moving tables, so as not to tempt fate and sat looking over another cup of coffee.

The thing is that lots of us are like that young woman, and here I am portraying one of my favourite faults; jumping to conclusions.

Sometimes we seem to get very attached, almost obsessed over the things that are wrong in our lives. We say 'we can't' because -we are useless - nothing ever goes right - we can't be trusted - bad things always happen. We preserve these myths by being justified when they happen and when they don't happen - that's just a fluke! We own our faults so thoroughly that we identify ourselves by them; in reality we limit ourselves by them. Sometimes we take so much time and effort protecting the right to be 'damaged' when we could using the same time and energy undoing the 'damage'. In all honesty, the only way to heal that sort of damage involves a little 'rocking the boat' and a lot of being gentle with yourself, and, if you believe, taking yourself back to God for a little inpouring of Grace. Because as clever as you are -you can't do it on your own.

When I got back to the Ward, my son was completing a 'well-being' questionnaire. One question was ' On a scale of 1-10 how attractive do you feel? He had put 'Because the treatment has given me spots - about an 8, but when they've gone I'll be back to a 10!' There's someone who knows they are loved!

wordinthehand2009

Long and Winding Road

Opening Prayer

Here I am Lord,
Listening
Speak to me
within my heart and soul.
I am listening.


Mark 8:12

If I have anything to say about it, you'll not get so much as a hint of a guarantee."

Reflection

I know that sometimes you feel let down -you live with uncertainty,

Life is hard at the best of times, at the worst of times – unbearable. And you want me to take that from you.

People are not kind, they can be downright cruel. And you want me to change them.

The future is bleak, not a place you want to be. And you want me to change that.

And it’s not that I can’t …after all the life I want for you is not like that…

But that is the life that is created by wanting what the world offers…

You seek the rewards for following the rules; the promotions for achieving your targets; the lifestyles for being on top; the image for fitting in…

And when you think you have done all that – the next rule, the next target, the next must have…? When all you have to do is – be mine.

Yet it is no easier to follow me. My life lived from hand to mouth, underdog to outlaw, refugee to sacrifice. A long road…a hard road, without signposts or waymarks; just one guide – Love – and all else uncertainty. And even now, do you believe that this final path is the only way?

I am the Way to eternal life; but there is no plan, no blueprint; no guarantee. I am Faith that leads you on; I am Hope that drives out despair; I am Love that makes it all worthwhile.

I know it won’t be easy, I know you are not sure of the way. But I am with you; arm around your shoulder; carrying you if need be; there when your want me. But don’t ask me for promises; don’t ask me for guarantees. The way to Eternal Life is not so easy.


Contemplation
The long and winding road

It is reassuring to make a journey knowing you are fully prepared; that you have everything you need; that you are confident about. But not every physical journey is like that and very few ‘life’ journeys are.

On these journeys you often get to a point where you stop and wonder, am I going the right way; am I prepared; should I turn back; does this look like a shortcut; was this a good idea?

In life, in faith, these journeys hold no guarantees; so what do you do? It is when you get to this point of uncertainty, of unknowing, that the only thing to do in trust in God, in the Lord, in the Spirit to guide you.

The unknowing may make you unsure of yourself, reminds you that you do not; you cannot know all the answers. And once you realise this, once you let go and let God, can the journey can continue.

We are in the mid-way of Lent, the point of no return. How are you finding it? Are you content to move forward knowing that only God holds the map; knows the answers or are there questions and uncertainties in your heart. Speak to God now telling him how you feel, he doesn’t mind the ‘don’t knows’, the ‘not sures’. They are the stepping stones of faith. Take them to him.



Closing Prayer
May the blessing of the Sacred Three
The Father who gave us the Word
The Son who is the Word
The Spirit who opens the Word within us
Be with us today and evermore.Amen


wordinthehand 2009