The Road of Life
Another year is coming to an end.
I can feel her tug at my calendar;
I can sense her insistent movement.
I can hear her call to cross over.
Outside my window the trees are empty
and the air has the ripeness of snowfall.
I cast an inward glance to the past
and feel a deep desire to catch its glow.
Something in me wants to hold on,
to gather all the good things close to me.
A part of me that yearns for security
keeps encouraging me to grasp it all.
Then a tiny thimble-full of light
moves its way through my insecurity;
it weaves a thread of courage,
sending sparks into the dark.
Up and up it rises through my spirit
until it meets my controlling grip.
The firefly flickers of God’s grace
are enough to embrace the unknown.
A surge of powerful surrender
takes over all my looking back,
and ever so gently and hopefully
I risk the road of another new year.
Once again our reflection is provided by Cathy York.
May you give and receive love generously.
May each person who comes into your life
be greeted as another Christ.
May the honour given the Babe of Bethlehem
be that which you extend to every guest who enters your presence.
May the hope of this sacred season settle in your soul.
May it be a foundation of courage for you
when times of distress occupy your inner land.
May the wonder and awe that fills the eyes of children
be awakened within you.
May it lead you to renewed awareness and appreciation
of whatever you too easily take for granted.
May the bonds of love for one another be strengthened
as you gather around the table of festivity and nourishment.
May you daily open the gift of your life and be grateful for the hidden treasures it contains.
May you keep your eye on the Star within you and trust
this Luminescent Presence to guide and direct you each day.
May you go often to the Bethlehem of your heart
and visit the One who offers you peace.
May you bring this peace into our world.
Our website uses a free piece of code from a company called Time.ly to manage and display our calendar. The site presents views of the calendar in many places.
On 20th December we realised that the calendar functions had all gone sadly wrong! They may have been wrong for days and perhaps you had noticed and were too kind to say. Next time please let us know. Anyway, all the events were there but displayed in a most bizarre fashion.
We worked on the problem, went round the houses a few times, kicked the problem over the garden wall etc. and if you look now you can see it has all come good. Hurrah!
Perhaps Fr Christmas has made us an early present of a new calendar? If so, thanks Fr Christmas!
Do the Next Right Thing
“What should we do?” The question in today’s gospel strikes at the very core of our being. It comes to us in many different ways. Regardless of how it comes about, that question brings us to a crossroads. It is a place of discernment and decision and ultimately a place of metanoia (i.e. change of mind and heart). We must begin looking for a new direction for our life.
Many years ago a dear friend and mentor pointed out to me some hard truths about my life. I remember asking him, “So what should I do now?” He looked at me and simply said, “Go do the next right thing.” That was not an answer that I either understood or wanted. As our discussion continued I realised he was not telling me to go fix my life all at once. He was only asking me to take the first step in a new direction. “What should I do after that,” I asked him. His answer was the same. “Go do the next right thing. And after that go do the next right thing.” He set me on a path of metanoia. These small and simple, though not necessarily easy steps would become life changing behaviour.
That is exactly what John the Baptist tells those who ask him, “What should we do?” It is asked three times – by the crowds, the tax collectors, and the soldiers. He told them to go and do the next right thing. John did not tell any of them to go and be something different. Instead he called them to be who they are but in a different way. He did not tell the tax collectors to go find an honest living. He asked of them honest tax collecting. He did not tell the soldiers to stop being soldiers but to be soldiers who respected others and understood the danger of power. He called the crowds to remember that their life is bound up in their neighbour’s life and there is no room for indifference, complacency, or miserly giving.
Metanoia is not just about us. It is connected to and happens in relationship with God and our neighbour. It always restores, enhances, and gives life. It is not about escaping the circumstances of our life but about engaging those circumstances in a new and different way – God’s way. Metanoia opens us to see ourselves and each other as we really are in God.
On Monday the 10th December John Battle, former MP for Leeds West, came to speak to an audience of 60 or more on this intriguing theme. Bishop Paul gave the introduction and then John energetically set about talking us through some of his experiences, first as an MP and then later with Citizens UK before he invited us into group discussion and a signpost of what may follow.
What follows is a personal recollection of, and reflection on, the talk. Others will have a different take. It is in the spirit of the talk for me to encourage you to ask them.
- We are called to link prayer and action. Powerful things can happen as a result of bringing people together and sometimes especially powerful things come from bringing what conventional wisdom labels the ‘wrong type of people’ together.
- There is a need for us to transform ourselves and the society we live in. We need to improve. It can be better.
- There is a need for leadership but also for strong local groups to form and cross link. It is not ‘them’ it is ‘us’. We need come together and express what is important to us. We need to define “What are our shared goals?” We need to learn to listen to each other.
- Citizens UK is a movement of the people. Existing groups with a strong identity can be cross linked to other groups in dialog and build a consensus and pressure for change.
- Politics is not all about the Westminster Parliament, it should be about how we, as mature citizens, as a society, want to shape our world.
- Citizens UK aims to facilitate the discussion, foster the leadership, help make the connections and so bring us all together to become a powerful force for changes we collectively want.
Following on the success in other towns and cities, Citizen UK have plans and a tentative timetable for Preston. Watch out! Do we get involved or run away? It is all to play for.
Anne Harrison held another of her excellent Capacitar sessions on Friday 7th December. These events really do seem to help people in all sorts of ways.
Anne gave attendees the opportunity to write a few words or a phrase of feedback.
“Energising, Safe, Healing, Challenging.”
“Healing. Proof that this can come from within.”
“Holding Enfolding Caring.”
“Getting in touch with feelings.”
“What a beautiful morning again. Privilege, Affirmation, Blessing.”
“Perfect healing morning.”
“I will walk on clouds for the rest of the day.”
“A beautiful well balanced morning.”
“I’m leaving deeply nourished, at peace and healed.”
Taken together along with the many expressions of thanks, these words give a sense of these excellent sessions. If you think you might benefit then why not come along on the 18th January 2019.
It would help us to manage numbers if you could make a booking by completing the form at the bottom of the event page in the calendar. You can do that by clicking here.
On Monday we have an evening discussion with John Battle MP. You may know John from his articles which have often been featured in The Tablet.
John Battle, a former MP, is a member of Leeds Citizens and the Chair of the Leeds Diocesan Justice and Peace Commission is coming to speak on the theme “Love Needs to be Organised”.
The talk will be introduced by Bishop Paul Swarbrick and followed by a group discussion and questions.
The title of the talk is taken from a line in Pope Benedict’s First Encyclical “Deus Caritas Est”. John believes that we need to do things, to change things for the better and that requires that we get organised. Referencing the relationship between prayer and action. He will draw analogies from the ruins of Kirkstall, a Cistercian Abbey near Leeds and Armley Remand Prison following Thomas Merton’s theme of the relationship between contemplation and action.
This will be a good evening. Click here for more details.
There will be no Mass on Thursday 13th December as some of the Xaverians are attending the Assembly in Coatbridge.
The Centre will be closed after Mass on Thursday the 20th December and will reopen on the 7th January for Cuppa Chat and the resumption of a bright new year.
Most of the usual activities are now on the calendar. We have come some way in 2018 but there is a lot more to do in 2019.
Time in the wilderness
Time in the wilderness, it seems, is the norm for God’s people. After the Israelites left Egypt they went to the wilderness. It was their preparation for the promised land. After Jesus was baptised he went to the wilderness. It was his preparation for his public ministry. And in today’s gospel “the word of God came to John, son of Zechariah in the desert.” The word of God and the wilderness always go together. That was true for John the Baptist and it is true for us. Name any wilderness of your life and there will be a corresponding word of God.
- In the wilderness of exile the word of God speaks of coming home.
- In the wilderness of broken relationships the word of God speaks reconciliation.
- In the wilderness of self-doubt the word of God speaks of your being beloved.
- In the wilderness of scarcity the word of God speaks generosity and abundance.
- In the wilderness of sin and guilt the word of God speaks mercy and forgiveness.
- In the wilderness of loss and sorrow the word of God speaks healing and joy.
- In the wilderness of emptiness and barrenness the word of God speaks fullness and fruitfulness.
- In the wilderness of death the word of God speaks resurrection.
There’s something about the wilderness. It’s the place where our lives can be transformed, the place we are most open to changing and being changed. Hidden within every wilderness is the beauty of divine presence. Every year at this time the season of Advent invites us to listen to the word of God in our wilderness, to experience the divine presence that sustains us in and carries us through the wilderness. It is not the final word but the first word, the creative word, the word that calls us to examine our lives, to turn around, to change our way of being, to see the world, one another, and ourselves in a new way. This is the repentance (change of heart) to which John the Baptist calls us. Ultimately, it is the call to love and be loved.
Our thanks, as always, to Cathy York.
The new website for the Xaverian UK province has gone live. If you want to know about the Xaverians in the UK then you should change over to xavs.org.
This site – xaverians.org.uk – will now focus on information about the Preston Centre.