Lectio Divina: News

Fifteen of the community took part in Lectio Divina on Friday. Trying to adhere to the established routine of time and form and although each person was at home, still united in Christ.

The group has exchanged reflections afterwards. Here are three to share. For privacy we have omitted names.

One

This is such a wonderful story filled with hope and knowledge of God’s great love for us.

There is a bit of Mary and Martha in me, maybe in all of us. I can always feel Mary’s pain and need for reassurance and help from Jesus. Martha was a more practical person and needed to do things in a more structured way. Both sisters had amazing faith and knew without doubt that God would grant Jesus anything.

Jesus waited two days before he went to Lazarus to show them God’s Glory by doing something only God could do. The fact that He wept at the death of his friend shows His total humanity. Both His Divinity and humanity in the same story.

I pray that I will one day have the total trust in Jesus that Mary and Martha have.

I pray for all the people affected by the coronavirus. All the NHS employees, All the clergy and religious and for you and your family. Please pray for my family, my friends and for me.

God bless.

Two

Years ago, my wife and I used to take cat biscuits to Venice. “per i poveri gatti” if anyone asked – they never did.

One day, in the direct sun in the searing midday heat, there was a cat lying on a stone window sill, apparently dead to the world.

I silently placed a single tiny biscuit near his nose. Instantly, no transition, he was instantly fully alert and gobbled it up, hungry for more.

We didn’t know his name but we called him Lazarus.

Jesus wasn’t there when Lazarus was taken ill, or when he died, and didn’t go immediately in response to the sisters’ call for help. Odd?

We are familiar enough with the two of them, Martha the practical one, Mary the contemplative [Xaverians and Carmelites?]. We need both practices.

The reference to Mary’s anointing show that John’s narrative is not presented chronologically because that story doesn’t come until the next chapter, 12:3

Jesus tells his disciples that he was pleased not to have been there – inexplicably at this stage, and hangs around where he was, for another two days.

Martha, still the activist, is the one who first comes out to meet him, and they discuss death and resurrection [as you do!]

Then Mary comes out and says word for word what Martha had said “If you had been here my brother would not have died” [not “our brother” ????]

And Jesus is disturbed in spirit and greatly moved; it’s arguable whether this is characteristic of humanity or divinity – i suggest both.

There is a significance to the 4-day period, which probably contributed to Jesus’ delay is turning up – the Jews believed that the spirit finally departed 4 days after death, so this sign was even more impressive.{John writes about signs, not miracles, which is the Synoptics’ favoured word]

I’ve always wondered exactly how Lazarus managed to stand up and came out, since his hands and feet were bound, but it’s perhaps significant that Jesus told the onlookers to unbind him and let him go.

This put me in mind of Peter’s escape from prison, when the angel told him to put on his sandals and fasten his belt; we are called on to do what we can, while God does what we can’t. Trust in the Lord and keep your powder dry!

As usual, the chief priests and co. don’t like what Jesus is doing because it undermines their authority and threatens their good standing with the Romans.

Caiaphas, with wonderful double entendre, probably not intended, says, it is better for one man to die than for the whole nation to be destroyed.

John expands this to comment that this means not just the Jews but all the dispersed children of God.

And that’s why this story is relevant to us, because that is who we are.

I look forward to reading other takes on this passage.

Warm regards to all.

Three

It seems always amazing to me how many things come out anew in a very well know Gospel when doing Lectio Divina.

For me today they were mainly three aspects that took my attention:

  • The attitude of the two sisters. Martha at once goes to receive the Lord, without hesitation, and without being called. She believes in Him and does a profession of faith. While Mary is sitting at home, I guess in sorrow for her loss. But as soon as she is called by the Lord she is in her way to meet Him.
  • Jesus attitude in front of the sufferings of those He love. He wept. Is it not what He does every time we are suffering? God didn’t promise us a way of roses, though He promise to be with us till the end of times; helping us to go through whatever tribulation lies ahead of us.
  • Jesus prayer to the Father. How beautiful and simple prayer, ‘I thank You for hearing my prayer…. You always hear me.’

I made this prayer mine and thanked the Lord for always hearing me, for always being by my side, for His unconditional love.

And so I pray for all of us, for those in need, especially those suffering with the Coronavirus, for the eternal rest of those who past away and for those who, in these times of need, do the will of the Father and attend the needy with love and compassion.

Lord in your mercy Hear my prayer.

Pope Francis’ address: Urbi et Orbi

Pope Francis meditated on the calming of the storm from the Gospel of Mark during the prayer service over which he presided on the steps of St Peter’s Basilica on Friday evening. Here is the full text.

“When evening had come” (Mk 4:35). The Gospel passage we have just heard begins like this. For weeks now it has been evening. Thick darkness has gathered over our squares, our streets and our cities; it has taken over our lives, filling everything with a deafening silence and a distressing void, that stops everything as it passes by; we feel it in the air, we notice in people’s gestures, their glances give them away. We find ourselves afraid and lost. Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat… are all of us. Just like those disciples, who spoke anxiously with one voice, saying “We are perishing” (v. 38), so we too have realized that we cannot go on thinking of ourselves, but only together can we do this.

It is easy to recognize ourselves in this story. What is harder to understand is Jesus’ attitude. While his disciples are quite naturally alarmed and desperate, he stands in the stern, in the part of the boat that sinks first. And what does he do? In spite of the tempest, he sleeps on soundly, trusting in the Father; this is the only time in the Gospels we see Jesus sleeping. When he wakes up, after calming the wind and the waters, he turns to the disciples in a reproaching voice: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” (v. 40).

Let us try to understand. In what does the lack of the disciples’ faith consist, as contrasted with Jesus’ trust? They had not stopped believing in him; in fact, they called on him. But we see how they call on him: “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” (v. 38). Do you not care: they think that Jesus is not interested in them, does not care about them. One of the things that hurts us and our families most when we hear it said is: “Do you not care about me?” It is a phrase that wounds and unleashes storms in our hearts. It would have shaken Jesus too. Because he, more than anyone, cares about us. Indeed, once they have called on him, he saves his disciples from their discouragement.

The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our pre-packaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity.

In this storm, the façade of those stereotypes with which we camouflaged our egos, always worrying about our image, has fallen away, uncovering once more that (blessed) common belonging, of which we cannot be deprived: our belonging as brothers and sisters.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, your word this evening strikes us and regards us, all of us. In this world, that you love more than we do, we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in things, and lured away by haste. We did not stop at your reproach to us, we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick. Now that we are in a stormy sea, we implore you: “Wake up, Lord!”.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Lord, you are calling to us, calling us to faith. Which is not so much believing that you exist, but coming to you and trusting in you. This Lent your call reverberates urgently: “Be converted!”, “Return to me with all your heart” (Joel 2:12). You are calling on us to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing. It is not the time of your judgement, but of our judgement: a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not. It is a time to get our lives back on track with regard to you, Lord, and to others. We can look to so many exemplary companions for the journey, who, even though fearful, have reacted by giving their lives. This is the force of the Spirit poured out and fashioned in courageous and generous self-denial. It is the life in the Spirit that can redeem, value and demonstrate how our lives are woven together and sustained by ordinary people – often forgotten people – who do not appear in newspaper and magazine headlines nor on the grand catwalks of the latest show, but who without any doubt are in these very days writing the decisive events of our time: doctors, nurses, supermarket employees, cleaners, caregivers, providers of transport, law and order forces, volunteers, priests, religious men and women and so very many others who have understood that no one reaches salvation by themselves. In the face of so much suffering, where the authentic development of our peoples is assessed, we experience the priestly prayer of Jesus: “That they may all be one” (Jn 17:21). How many people every day are exercising patience and offering hope, taking care to sow not panic but a shared responsibility. How many fathers, mothers, grandparents and teachers are showing our children, in small everyday gestures, how to face up to and navigate a crisis by adjusting their routines, lifting their gaze and fostering prayer. How many are praying, offering and interceding for the good of all. Prayer and quiet service: these are our victorious weapons.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Faith begins when we realise we are in need of salvation. We are not self-sufficient; by ourselves we flounder: we need the Lord, like ancient navigators needed the stars. Let us invite Jesus into the boats of our lives. Let us hand over our fears to him so that he can conquer them. Like the disciples, we will experience that with him on board there will be no shipwreck. Because this is God’s strength: turning to the good everything that happens to us, even the bad things. He brings serenity into our storms, because with God life never dies.

The Lord asks us and, in the midst of our tempest, invites us to reawaken and put into practice that solidarity and hope capable of giving strength, support and meaning to these hours when everything seems to be floundering. The Lord awakens so as to reawaken and revive our Easter faith. We have an anchor: by his cross we have been saved. We have a rudder: by his cross we have been redeemed. We have a hope: by his cross we have been healed and embraced so that nothing and no one can separate us from his redeeming love. In the midst of isolation when we are suffering from a lack of tenderness and chances to meet up, and we experience the loss of so many things, let us once again listen to the proclamation that saves us: he is risen and is living by our side. The Lord asks us from his cross to rediscover the life that awaits us, to look towards those who look to us, to strengthen, recognize and foster the grace that lives within us. Let us not quench the wavering flame (cf. Is 42:3) that never falters, and let us allow hope to be rekindled.

Embracing his cross means finding the courage to embrace all the hardships of the present time, abandoning for a moment our eagerness for power and possessions in order to make room for the creativity that only the Spirit is capable of inspiring. It means finding the courage to create spaces where everyone can recognize that they are called, and to allow new forms of hospitality, fraternity and solidarity. By his cross we have been saved in order to embrace hope and let it strengthen and sustain all measures and all possible avenues for helping us protect ourselves and others. Embracing the Lord in order to embrace hope: that is the strength of faith, which frees us from fear and gives us hope.

“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith”? Dear brothers and sisters, from this place that tells of Peter’s rock-solid faith, I would like this evening to entrust all of you to the Lord, through the intercession of Mary, Health of the People and Star of the stormy Sea. From this colonnade that embraces Rome and the whole world, may God’s blessing come down upon you as a consoling embrace. Lord, may you bless the world, give health to our bodies and comfort our hearts. You ask us not to be afraid. Yet our faith is weak and we are fearful. But you, Lord, will not leave us at the mercy of the storm. Tell us again: “Do not be afraid” (Mt 28:5). And we, together with Peter, “cast all our anxieties onto you, for you care about us” (cf. 1 Pet 5:7). – www.vaticannews.va/en.html

Book Club has gone Virtual

The Book Club has gone virtual. They are using a private WhatsApp group administered by Mike O’Callaghan. If you want to join in then contact us and we will put you in touch with Mike.

The group discussed poetry at their last meeting on the 18th. The theme was “Lost and Found”. One of the group has shared a couple of poems under that theme.

Hyacinths to feed thy soul.

If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft
And of thy simple store two loaves of bread alone are left
Sell one, and with the dole,
Buy hyacinths to feed the soul.

John Greenleaf Whittier

The contributor wrote “I included this short poem because I knew that I wanted to include these words in a ‘Lost and Found’ context. On my first reading of them, some years ago, I felt comforted in my ‘loss at that time’ and it then took me a while to find the words again.”

The Bright Field

I have seen the sun break through
to illuminate a small field
for a while, and gone my way
and forgotten it. But that was the
pearl of great price, the one field that had
treasure in it. I realise now
that I must give all that I have
to possess it. Life is not hurrying
on to a receding future, nor hankering after
an imagined past. It is the turning
aside like Moses to the miracle
of the lit bush, to a brightness
that seemed as transitory as your youth
once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

R.S. Thomas

“I like this poem because it reflects on how we have the capacity to find real joy and lose it again so quickly – but it is hopeful and reminds us that ‘all is not lost’ – if we keep a searching attitude.”

And the people stayed home

Another poem for our times

And the people stayed home
And read books,
and listened,
and rested,
and exercised,
and made art,
and played games,
and learned new ways of being,
and were still
and listened more deeply.

Some meditated,
some prayed,
some danced.
Some met their shadows.
and the people began to think differently.

And the people healed.
And, in the absence of people living in ignorant, dangerous, mindless, and heartless ways,
the earth began to heal.

And when the danger passed,
and the people joined together again,
they grieved their losses,
and made new choices,
and dreamed new images,
and created new ways to live and heal the earth fully,
as they had been healed.

Kitty O’Meara

Lockdown

Here is a poem written by Brother Richard Kendrick.

Yes there is fear.
Yes there is isolation.
Yes there is panic buying.
Yes there is sickness.
Yes there is even death.

But,
They say that in Wuhan after so many years of noise
You can hear the birds again.
They say that after just a few weeks of quiet
The sky is no longer thick with fumes
But blue and grey and clear.

They say that in the streets of Assisi
People are singing to each other
across the empty squares,
keeping their windows open
so that those who are alone
may hear the sounds of family around them.

They say that a hotel in the West of Ireland
Is offering free meals and delivery to the housebound.
Today a young woman I know
is busy spreading fliers with her number
through the neighbourhood
So that the elders may have someone to call on.

Today Churches, Synagogues, Mosques and Temples
are preparing to welcome
and shelter the homeless, the sick, the weary
All over the world people are slowing down and reflecting
All over the world people are looking at their neighbours in a new way

All over the world people are waking up to a new reality
To how big we really are.
To how little control we really have.
To what really matters.
To Love.

So we pray and we remember that
Yes there is fear.
But there does not have to be hate.
Yes there is isolation.
But there does not have to be loneliness.
Yes there is panic buying.
But there does not have to be meanness.
Yes there is sickness.
But there does not have to be disease of the soul
Yes there is even death.
But there can always be a rebirth of love.

Wake to the choices you make as to how to live now.
Today, breathe.
Listen, behind the factory noises of your panic
The birds are singing again
The sky is clearing,
Spring is coming,

And we are always encompassed by Love.
Open the windows of your soul
And though you may not be able
to touch across the empty square,
Sing.

Brother Richard Kendrick

Monday Meditation has gone Virtual

At our last meditation on Monday, we decided that we would continue to hold the meditation hour wherever we are, on Monday evenings from 8pm to 9pm Knowing that, though separate we will still be meditating together, seems like a proactive and powerful course of action.

We invite all to join us, Monday evenings 8pm to 9pm for an hour of silent meditation.

Random Thoughts at Random Times

There is that old gag – “If priests went on strike…would anyone notice?” Now you don’t have to answer that…but it is now closer to being fact than being a funny.

The announcement this week by the Episcopal Conferences of both Scotland and England/Wales to suspend all public worship brought home, to those of the Catholic faith, the seriousness of this pandemic. The Eucharist, “source and summit” of all we are is now being denied to the faithful. We can’t go to Communion nor be in communion with each other. This is true also in the other Christian traditions when similar announcements were made and to other faiths when Mosques, Synagogues, Temples, Gurdwaras…also closed their doors to the faithful. It starkly brought home to us what we take for granted.

It is true that we don’t fully appreciate things until we are denied them. We only think of water when we are thirsty, we long for light when we are plunged into the dark, we crave food when we realise that we are hungry. As human beings we too easily take things for granted and it is sadly when we don’t have them that we learn to appreciate them. Or when we see someone worse off than ourselves… “I complained because I had no moccasins until I saw a man with no feet.” (Native American Proverb)

And so to social distancing or self-isolation. I am sure this has been met with… “How will I cope?” or “I can’t do that.” or “I need to see them” – if you are an extravert! For those of the introversion preference it may come as a welcome relief to the rigours of socialising or a chance to get ‘time to myself’ or the opportunity to work away quietly at completing all those things needing to be done. We suddenly realise we have taken our need for others for granted.

The last time I self-isolated was when I did an 8 Day Silent Retreat before my final vows. By day two I was talking to myself in the mirror whilst shaving! We all find our ways to cope.

And it is in our coping that we display who we are. Some have gone into selfish mode, stockpiling things they will never need nor use! Others in denial that this is nothing more than something from a Dan Brown novel and it’s all been exaggerated. Some others are convinced they are invincible and that ‘it will never affect me!’ I hope these are just from a faction of humanity. For most of us there is a breadth of emotions ranging from caution to fear, from anxiety to concern, from common sense to contrived non-sense.

I think the underlying fear is of the unknown. Like the original sin of Genesis, we don’t like not knowing everything, we crave full knowledge. But, this is something we have never faced, it is new, it is unseen, it knows no boundaries. It also reminds us of the downside of globalisation, the adverse aspect of living in a global village. I believe our fear is compounded by our inability – our inability to give answers, to explain, to see the whole picture, to know what to do and, ultimately, our inability to be in control.

In the face of this, the last thing we can do is despair. Despair is the antithesis of being a Christian, the antagonist of or faith. There is never an opportune time for a pandemic but the trials of Lent leading to the triumph of Easter could indeed be deemed a fairly appropriate time. We are approaching the great feast of victory over evil, of the Divine authority over human frailty, of limitless over limited, of life over death. This is the feast where we acknowledge and celebrate that nothing can stand in the way of God’s all-powerful love, not even the tomb. However, before we get the balloons and the bubbly ready, we need to pass through the passion. The suffering of Jesus reminds us that our sins have consequences be it personal sin, social sin or ecological sin. Our present day sufferings may well be the result of our sins too, (and that demands due reflection and action) but we celebrate the fact that God’s love is omnipotent and it’s that belief that gets us through the “vale of tears.”

So, as we endure our present passion, let us not forget where it can lead us, if we but open our hearts to that transforming love of the Father. We can stand beating our breasts, tear-filled and petrified at the foot of the cross or run, hearts bursting, joy filled and glorified at the empty tomb.

The choice is ours.

I pray that as we live these uncertain times, we take certainty from the Easter message, and place our hope in God’s unfathomable love. The angel Gabriel told Mary at the annunciation “Do not be afraid…Nothing is impossible to God.” This is our faith and as we move through these times may we be comforted from that phrase uttered many times by Jesus “Do not be afraid…your faith has saved you.”

May the Passion give strength to us and Easter pour blessings on us.

Jim Clarke, s.x.

Mindfulness has gone Virtual

Our Mindfulness practice sessions are continuing in a different way. The group has agreed to continue to practise from home at the same time as the scheduled sessions. This is both an act of solidarity and a way of helping us to hold onto the familiar patterns of our lives.

We invite all to join us for virtual sessions on the second and fourth Tuesdays of every month, 10:30 to 12:00.

The Catholic Voice

The April edition has been printed and sent out to the churches but the suspension of services will mean many will not have a chance to see it. We have been given a .PDF copy that you can read here.

Note: some of the features advertise events that have been overtaken by the Coronavirus pandemic and the mitigating actions. Check with the organisers as the situation is moving fast.