Archive | May, 2020

The Spirit

25 May

There was this lad, brought up by his parents to have high ideals. They were a relatively poor family but devoted to the moral teachings of their religion. They were in a land which was run by people whose religion seemed to be about grasping power over others and gaining wealth for oneself at all costs; and sadly, even their religious leaders got caught up in this spirit of selfishness, and were more concerned with the petty rituals and rules of their religion than with its high ideal: a vision of a perfect and happy community.

When he grew up and after he had spent sometime working in his local village, this lad became a young enthusiast, working for the ideal community of love and exemplifying it in his own life. The more he spoke of his ideas and the more he showered love on the people he met, so the number of people who followed him grew, and he hoped that they might understand what he was about; but many of them liked the idea as long as it didn’t upset their own way of living – so some of the scholars and religious leaders didn’t much go for what he had to say.

As his ideas developed and the crowds began to follow him towards the capital and centre of religious and secular authority, he realised that the people there, were not just going to be upset, but they would connive to silence him once and for all. So he tried to say to people, that to follow him was daring and dangerous and could upset their lives – it would be really hard, though it would be for the overall good. He himself was possessed by the spirit of the ideal he had received as a child – by the call from God to show love to others, and he began to establish a community of love for all – the kingdom of God.

Yes, he was arrested and executed, but, you know, he lives on in us who have the same Spirit; and we find it hard also, yet we must pray, and live to make this Kingdom come.

Gospel truth ?

18 May

The word “Gospel” in common parlance may well mean it’s true, but in a Christian context it means (also) good news (which is it’s etymological meaning).  It always refers to some statement, and surely must be true if it is good news.  However we can be quite confident that John’s Gospel written late in the 1st century is not historically accurate through and through.  The passage we have today which is part of a much much longer section is presented as a sermon of Jesus, which surely is not literally what He said.  However it is an important part of the New Testament inspired by God and is from one of the four gospels – the Good News.

Notice that there is a ‘challenging’ statement in the passage John 17:9, which can help us think carefully about what the Good News means.  Jesus in this sermon says ” I am not praying for the world, but for those you have given me, for they are yours.”  If we are not careful this could mean that Jesus is not concerned about all people but only these disciples (or even only Christians)  and surely we wont take this to mean that only such people belong to God,  Noticing this can strengthen our belief that God loves all people (every thing) not just the Church goers.  This we know but can overlook.

Mass on the world

11 May

When I was third year in Seminary in 1960, wrongly thinking that I wanted to be a priest, an order came from Rome that a certain book, just translated into English was not to be read by seminarians. That was when I first got and read “The future of man” by Pere Teilhard de Chardin. I was reminded of this by our present lock-down.  At one time he was in a desert in northern China working with other scientists.  Instead of mass as we know it – for which he had no facilities and which would have meant nothing to his co-workers – he ‘offered’ what he called a “mass on the world.”  He was a great enthusiast for the idea of evolution – of God’s work of creation being, from our standpoint, an ongoing process. In this process, which we experience ourselves, there are what seem to us like ups and downs, some beauty in the world, some positives for example in human development, but also some opposite experiences what we see as damaging and painful.

As pere Teilhard voiced his thoughts that desert morning they fell under two appropriate headings – of joy and pain which can be thought of as bread and wine, or as sustenance and suffering, body and blood. So we can celebrate this kind of ‘mass’ by rejoicing in the goodness in the world, in the universe, in our planet and its inhabitants – even in ourselves – the body.  But also we take part by recognising the unfinished, the mystery of space, the suffering of living creatures and of ourselves – blood. In this way we take to ourselves the bread and wine, both of which are Christ – God in action – in the process of creating and sustaining our/His world. People have sometimes used this example for their own celebration of all that is and that should be – it becomes a thanks giving which is what the word eucharist means. We could use it for ourselves in our present situation.

Who are we

4 May

The reading from 1 Peter, reminded me of the organisation of the church. The leaders needed to have pointed out to them people they should be caring about. Even then I notice that the helpers (deacons) they commission to do this are all men, and are set apart with some sort of ritual ‘ordination.’ But the structure isn’t that important, it is the vibrancy of the response to peoples’ needs that counts. And nowadays, especially in our Catholic church, it is the people who show the gentleness and concern of Christ for others -and I guess a good number of them are female.

Some of us miss our weekly prayer service – the mass -, but while that needs an ordained priest, we can still ‘meet’ (digitally) and celebrate and pray. Indeed who would even deny that in this online community there is a real presence of Christ gathered. This has been revealed (more clearly) in our present ‘lock-down’ situation.   We do believe, as Christians, that by taking on humanity (at the incarnation) and dying and moving on to the risen life, Christ is in all humanity – in all but sin. So especially as we care for all others to the extent that we can, we are the presence of Christ in the world – sometimes called the body of Christ, like the body of workers in our parishes who pray together and help others as far as they are able. Yes, let our ‘leaders’ worry about deacons, and deaconesses – about hierarchy and structure and married priests – but don’t forget who we are – truly the real presence of Christ in the world.