Wednesday, 4 March 2015
The incredible wildlife photograph of the woodpecker and the weasel on its back hit the headlines yesterday. It offers much food for thought. The weasel is a predator and the woodpecker is the prey. At the very moment of the attack the woodpecker takes flight and the weasel finds itself on the back of the bird as it takes flight. From this photograph we do not know what happened next, I would hope that the woodpecker soared up into the air, shaking the weasel off its back, and flew to safety, to freedom! A romantic notion perhaps, the world of nature looks beautiful but can be anything but in reality! I was thinking of this picture today as I read the psalms and canticle for morning prayer. The first verse of the canticle from Samuel read
“My heart rejoices in the Lord,
my strength is raised up in the name of my God.
I cry out in triumph over my enemies
as I rejoice in your deliverance.”
and it led me into thinking about lent. The journey though lent is one of deliverance from enemies, from foes. The woodpecker’s enemy and foe was the weasel who was poised to attack and the woodpecker just manages to take to flight in time to be delivered from it’s enemy. During lent the Christian is aware of the enemy and foe to the spiritual life, that deadly predator called sin, and the pouncing of sin upon us is something we are to be on our guard against, to be vigilant about in our prayer. Overcoming this foe is the toil and effort we make in lent. Shaking sin off our backs enables us, like the woodpecker, to soar and take flight, to be free. May we be delivered from sin by our attention to Christ during this time of lent.
Monday, 2 March 2015
One moment of sweet frailty exposed,
the host is lifted up, to hang fleetingly in the air.
My Lord and my God, I make my confession there.
One moment of trusting obedience,
the Christ goes to his death, lifted up, hung in the air.
My Lord and my God, true hope resides there.
One moment, touching the fabric of time,
the briefest brush against the still hushed air.
My Lord and my God, died on that cross there.
One moment, just that one,
made present upon each altar, as incense lingers in the air.
My Lord and my God, abiding forever there.
One moment, of gentleness,
when life’s author revealed his love, to make us his heir.
My Lord and my God, please keep my heart there.
Fr Patrick Brennan © 2013 all rights reserved
Hear the word of the Lord,
you rulers of Sodom;
listen to the command of our God,
you people of Gomorrah.
‘Wash, make yourselves clean.
Take your wrong-doing out of my sight.
Cease to do evil.
Learn to do good,
search for justice,
help the oppressed,
be just to the orphan,
plead for the widow.
‘Come now, let us talk this over,
says the Lord.
Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
‘If you are willing to obey,
you shall eat the good things of the earth.
But if you persist in rebellion,
the sword shall eat you instead.’
The word of the Lord.
The above reading is from the Mass for Tuesday in the second week of lent. The reading is instructive in nature. The word of the Lord is being spoken, the prophet Isaiah is addressing the people, who seem by all accounts to be a very obstinate and stubborn people. It always touches my heart when I hear the scriptures proclaimed, and in this instance I am aware that not much changes with humanity. The word of the Lord today is familiar, it addresses me and speaks to my own situation, my weakness, my sin! Not much has changed in the hearts of humankind, they still need the firm, yet gentle persuasion of the goodness of the Lord, our hearts in lent are to be prepared by prayer and penance especially, so as to be a fertile soil, a listening tool, a place to receive the Lord.
Though centuries hurtle by, basically each generation of Christians is encouraged time and again by the Lord to be good. These words are so easily applied to our generation today, to our own time and place, to each of us individually, as well as the collective body of people who live to follow Christ today.
The Lord lays down the law by putting it straight to the people, no messing around. Stop being stubborn and obstinate, stop doing evil, learn to do good instead. It is a warning, that there are consequences to our actions, when we do evil, bad things arise, when we do good, the world, and we ourselves, become a better place to reside. When I am scolded by someone who loves me, as a child I sulk for a while, then reflecting upon the words I may well take heed and try to reform my behaviour. The Lord loves us, we are his children, and he points out to us what needs to be reformed in us. Today I pray for a listening heart, a spirit that is willing to learn to do good, to search for justice, to be a friend to the needy. I pray that my stubbornness may dissipate in the gentle waters of the grace of God’s healing forgiveness, and that I may rest in the soothing balm of his word.
Sunday, 1 March 2015
The gospel reading for the Mass of Monday, in the second week of Lent, is from St Luke 6:36-38:
“Jesus said to his disciples: ‘Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.’”
The words in this gospel contain instructions. Jesus is frequently giving good instructions to his disciples. When I hear these words I take a sharp intake of breath. They are difficult instructions, for they seem to go against my natural inclination, which is to be judging, condemning, and not a very compassionate person. Why does Jesus say these words? Because he has come across the attitude that judges, that condemns, and is lacking in mercy! To follow Jesus demands a radical conversion to his ways, no easy task. Jesus’ words challenge my stubbornness of heart, challenges my inability to be compassionate, and challenges my tendency to pass judgment on all and sundry. When I first encountered the internet through blogging and twitter, I felt it was up to me to challenge every misconception about faith, very soon I realised this is not the task of anyone who wishes to take heed of Jesus’ words. My task every day is to take the words of Christ and place my life against the light contained within those words. I try to measure up to those words and when I fail, which is frequently, I seek forgiveness and grace to do better next time.
Lent arrives each year to challenge and cajole, to offer instructions for a more careful following of Jesus. I hear the words from people sometimes that when addressing parishioners I am already “preaching to the converted.” Yet I know from my own spiritual life, conversion is an ongoing reality, a daily task of renewal. A vigilant heart is required to stay converted in each and every moment. We all can become complacent about our spiritual lives. Taking lent seriously involves not being prepared to be complacent, but rather being more vigilant about what the words of Jesus demand of us. Jesus’ instructions in the gospel says “give” and here is the beginnings of truly hearing Jesus instructions and carrying them out faithfully. Giving of ourselves freely, is a trait of the Christian, giving is the root of love and the flowering of faith filled discipleship. My prayer today for this coming week of lent is that I may be a more giving person, a less selfish individual, and a more compassionate person, one who is less keen to judge, while more willing to give. Only by God’s grace can I ever hope to achieve this; may I seek that grace with all my heart, and pursue the instructions of the Lord with all my strength, and tenacity. Through the sweet grace of Christ, the living Lord. Amen
Saturday, 28 February 2015
Today’s Gospel brings us to a mountaintop, the mount of Jesus’ transfiguration where his glory was revealed. Reading a commentary on Mark’s gospel, I came across the following passage about today’s gospel.
“High mountains were traditional sites where biblical people often met their God. Clouds that may have encircled these peaks were seen as signs of God’s presence. It is sometimes said that even the structure of Mark’s Gospel from which we read today is like a mountain. As we go up one side, we hear about the ministry of Jesus; the miracles, the healings, the feeding of the thousands, the call of the disciples. The top of the mountain is Peter’s declaration, “You are the Christ’, and the revelation of Jesus’ glory at the transfiguration. And then, the disciples and Jesus come down the other side of the mountain toward the cross and some difficult days ahead.”
Reaching a mountain summit is the goal of those climbers dedicated to reaching it. I am sure, even though I have never attempted too, that standing on the top of a mountain that you wanted to climb brings a euphoria, one that fills the senses with the achievement of the goal. After this emotion comes the realisation that you have to climb back down and get on with life. The memory of reaching the summit may help you in difficult days ahead, but the reality is clambering back down, and getting on with life! The disciples experience the euphoria of the transfiguration of Jesus, they are in the brilliant presence of God. So who would blame them for wishing to build tents and staying there always! But the reality was they had to come back down the mountain and engage in the mission Jesus was setting them, the proclamation of the kingdom.
The task given to all followers of Christ is to proclaim the kingdom, but to do that, we have to have experienced first hand the euphoria of Jesus’ presence. We have to be convinced of the message, if it is to carry any weight in our lives lived for others. If we go through the motions of faith in Christ, it will remain just at the edge of our lives, not influencing the person we become. How do we take the step of the disciples in the gospel today, they see the glory of God and this transfiguration transforms them, yet it still leaves them prone to weakness, to making mistakes, to making the wrong choices, the thing about the presence of God is that despite weakness and personal sins, despite making the wrong choices at times, there is that desire to return to the presence of God that we have experienced for ourselves.
The transfiguration allows us to see that is a step we have to make, a step of faith, one taken personally by each of us, where we own our faith and its message. In lent we have the opportunity to make that step, to find God’s loving presence in prayer, in penance, in charity and fasting. The Stations of the Cross prayed in public in church on each Sunday afternoon during lent is one way of taking a step closer to proclaiming God’s kingdom. Climbing the mountain, reaching the summit and coming back down again, to engage in living, is really an excellent summary of lent!
Tuesday, 24 February 2015
Mother of Sorrows
My Son, my God, hanging lifeless upon the barren tree trunk
Unimaginable pain descends, forcing its way into my weary heart
Twisted, bowed down, compassion is stumped, hope seems sunk
Mourning attaches its claggy, nagging presence, as I watch you depart
Tear stained eyes gaze upon your bloodied flesh and bruised bone
A sword pierces the surface of my life, bringing unbearable grief
Silence falls, as skies darken, heaven weeps, a thunder of love's groan
My Son, my God, the beloved of my life, ripped from me like a thief
Now breath is ceased, now folded gently into my sorrowful frame
My hands caress your cold body, hands that lifted you in joyful play
Whispering in adoration, speaking softly your sweet holy name
Memory strays to the stable, angels proclaimed your birth that day
Memory strays to the stable, angels proclaimed your birth that day
Now just a shattering pain, when they lifted you high into acrid air
Gruesome, the cross casts a fearsome shadow upon me, as I hold you
Words you spoke reside deep in my soul, even now I do not despair
“Do not be afraid!“ I hear still, in my sorrow, I will forever trust you.
Fr. Patrick Brennan © 2015 all rights reserved