Day 9: The Wounded Healer


A young mother I know wrote a beautiful benediction to her child about the scar across her tummy.  “I know you hate it being there,” she wrote, “ But can I just say … I love it.  I love all 8 centimetres of it.  From start to finish.  You want to know why? It’s because that scar, right there, across your tummy was the doorway to your salvation.  It’s the remnants left behind, from a man who saved your life.  I vowed to kiss your scar every day, or at least each time I set my eyes upon it.  Because I love you.  Every last fibre of you.”

At the darkness of the Easter Vigil, as the Paschal Candle is blessed, the priest pushes five grains of incense into the cross inscribed into the wax. ‘By his holy and glorious wounds, may Christ our Lord guard and keep us,” he says. On this night, when we celebrate the rising of Christ, and the darkness is filled with light, and break the silence with song, we shy not away from his wounds, the doorway to our salvation.

‘By his holy and glorious wounds, may Christ our Lord guard and keep us.”

From the Easter Vigil Liturgy

‘Why are you so agitated, and why are these doubts stirring in your hearts?’ asks Jesus when he appears to his disciples on the first Easter Sunday.  “See my hands and my feet that it is I myself.  Touch me and see for yourselves… and as he said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.’ (Luke 24:38-40)

In the gospel according to John, Thomas is absent on this occasion.  ‘Unless I can 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.’  John 20:24ff).  And so eight days later, on the first day of the week, when they are all gathered, Jesus appears again.  “Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands.  Give me your hand; put it into my side.  Do not be unbelieving any more but believe.’  Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’

“Then he spoke to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; look, here are my hands.  Give me your hand; put it into my side.  Do not be unbelieving any more but believe.’  Thomas replied, ‘My Lord and my God!’

John 20:24ff

The wounds of Christ are part of  Jesus’ identity, proof of who he is, a living sign that he who has died, who was ‘pierced for our sake’, is risen from the dead.  ‘They will look on the one they have pierced,’ say John’s gospel, quoting Zechariah (John 19:37; Zechariah 12:10).

In a beautiful prayer for our Eucharistic devotion, the Anima Christi, we pray “Within thy wounds hide me.’  In itself, this could sound hideous but, equipped with the rich symbolism and story of the Christian narrative, it fills us with hope and comfort, refuge and strength.

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:24-25).  The wounds of Christ are marks of love, a source of healing, the means through which we are saved.    His death brings life, his wounds bring healing.  “The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God,” wrote St Paul (1 Corinthians 1:18)

“He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.”

1 Peter 2:24-25

In John’s gospel, when Jesus’ side is pierced, blood and water flow.  Christians see in this a Sacramental sign.  The water of Baptism, the Blood of the Eucharist.  It is from and for Christ’s death that the Eucharist is given to us.  The Eucharist is a memorial of the death of Christ, a means through which we are drawn deeper into his healing wounds, the source of our salvation.  He loves us.  Every last fibre.


Friday 26 February 2021


How deep is our love?

Read

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘If your virtue goes no deeper than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never get into the kingdom of heaven. ‘You have learnt how it was said to our ancestors: You must not kill; and if anyone does kill he must answer for it before the court. But I say this to you: anyone who is angry with his brother will answer for it before the court; if a man calls his brother “Fool” he will answer for it before the Sanhedrin; and if a man calls him “Renegade” he will answer for it in hell fire.

matthew 5:2-23

Reflect

What starts a war between nations? Territorial disagreements? A government grabbing what doesn’t belong to them, or taking back what has been stolen? An unjust angry aggressor in power? Cultural and religious intolerance? Insecurity or jealousy? Greed for power as a leader pushes their weight around on the world stage? The list goes on. And yet all these emotions and motives are present or possible in the heart of each of us. We can be angry, jealous, greedy, ready to retaliate when we are wronged, can be intolerant and cynical, scared and insecure.

Jesus repeats the roll call of the commandments of ‘You must not kill” but he strips this command right back to the bare human emotion of anger. He is calling us to have a deeper sense of self awareness, to recognise the actions in our own lives that have the propensity to cause damage and destruction and to be alert to how a situation can easily escalate.

Whilst war takes place on the world stage, there are battlefields within our own hearts, and often fractures in our relationships with others. Reconciliation is often a difficult and painful path. Depending on how deeply we have hurt or been hurt, the process can take time, and always demands a true acknowledgement of how we and others are feeling. God’s Kingdom is built on Love, and there is no end to what his love can do.

Pray

God our Father, help us to be alert to our feelings and emotions, and to be sensitive to the feeling of others, to show sorrow for our sins, and to forgive when we are wronged. Through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.

Day 8: A Bee among the Flowers


Over the last year, we’ve paid more serious attention to the birds and the bees as we shape the ‘Wild Side’ of St Mary’s, carving out a home for nature, planting flowers to attract pollinators and others.  There’s been much publicity about the plight of bees, and how important and essential they and other pollinators are to human living, to the whole eco-system.

“After communion, the soul rests in the balm of love, as a bee among the flowers,” said St John Vianney.  Perhaps his phrase is somewhat sentimental and flowery (if you’ll excuse the pun).  It’s easy to attribute human characteristics to animals and assume the bees are somehow happy as we would be happy, as they buzz amongst the flowers. 

“After communion, the soul rests in the balm of love, as a bee among the flowers.”

St John Vianney

Perhaps we can simply say that they are in their rightful place, doing what they and the world wants and needs them to do, taking their position in the natural order of the world, working by instinct, a creative culmination of years of evolution, helping the world to be balanced and right.

And so, when we have received the great gift of Holy Communion, the world – or our world, at least – is, for a while, for the briefest of moments, so brief to go unnoticed at times, perhaps, is balanced and right. 

That time after we have received Holy Communion is a time spent in thankful prayer, knowing that we are in our rightful place.  We are with Jesus, united with him, a gift received and filled with love, a love which heals and soothes us.

The world around us may be chaotic, our own little world may be out of sorts but, for that small moment, we are in the right place.  We can take to heart the words of Peter on that mountain of Transfiguration, and say or feel that “It is good for us to be here” as we rest in the balm of God’s love as a bee among the flowers.


Thursday 25 February 2021


Food Heaven

Read

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Ask, and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you. For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. Is there a man among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or would hand him a snake when he asked for a fish? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him! So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the meaning of the Law and the Prophets.’

matthew 7:7-12

Reflect

On a lazy Saturday morning, you may come across ‘Saturday Kitchen’ on the BBC. One of the celebrity guests chooses a ‘food heaven’ and a ‘food hell.’ At the end of the programme, they either get to eat the dish they love the most, or the dish they most fear, all determined by the public vote

Perhaps, the idea of a fish dish is far more delectable than a snake bake – although more adventurous eaters, of course, may give it a go! Jesus uses the image of a loving, caring parent who provides food for his children to explore how God relates to us. “Is there a man among you who would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread? Or would hand him a snake when he asked for a fish? If you, then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Jesus has drawn us into the loving, intimate relationship of God. Only Jesus, by right, can call God his Father but we are adopted with him as his brothers and sisters. And so, like Christ, we dare to call God our Father. He cares for us, he feeds us, he loves us, he wants what is good for us. We are his children and he gazes upon us with pure love, he wants us to live with him for ever. Whether we experience food heaven or food he’ll in this life, Heaven is our hope and destiny.

Pray

God our Father, thank you for you loving care, and for all the blessings we receive from you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord Amen.

Day 7: Food for the Journey

Each years, for years, I used to take a large group of young people to the Walsingham Youth Pilgrimage although that privilege now is left to younger leaders!  It’s quite a long coach journey and, when we arrived, we slept in tents in the middle of a field. The food was good considering the circumstances but some of the young people could be, well, quite fussy!

So they smuggled their own food with them.  Dried soups and snacks, chocolate, cakes, crisps and other convenience snacks secretly stowed away in their rucksacks.  They went on pilgrimage with a good supply of food!

Whenever we make a journey, whether it’s a simple day trip to the seaside or an arduous trek for weeks on end, we need to make sure that we have enough resources.  These resources depend on the type of journey we’re making but so important is the need of food for the journey, whether it’s a  packed lunch or a stop off somewhere to buy something along the way.

A ‘Way Out’ meal

We, too, on our Christian Journey, need to have food for the journey – not simply physical food to keep us nourished and sustained but something even more important.  We need what we may call ‘spiritual food.’

On the night before he died, Jesus gave us this food for the journey.  He gave us the Eucharist to feed and sustain us.  He sat down with his closest friends and followers to share a meal, familiar ritual which runs through the Jewish story, the Passover of the Lord.

The Passover was the meal that God instructed Moses and the People of Israel to eat before their escape, their exodus, from slavery and their long and difficult journey to freedom (Exodus 12).  It was a day that they would remember every year as a pilgrim-feast.  It was part and parcel of their identity. The Passover meal was ‘food for the journey.’

Jesus filled this meal with new meaning.  He took bread and wine, gave thanks, broke the bread, and shared them with his disciples, and said, ‘This is my Body,’ and ‘This is my Blood.’  ‘Do this in remembrance of me,’ he said.

From here to eternity

From that moment, one of the characteristics of Christians was to break bread, to share this special meal, a meal that became known as the Eucharist.  In the Acts of the Apostles we see the defining characteristics of the Church and how they devoted themselves to the Breaking of Bread.  There we read that ‘they met constantly to hear the apostles teach and to share the common life, to break bread and to pray.’  (Acts 2:42).

From the earliest days, then, the Eucharist was essential, and it remains so today.  The Church in Wales calls it ‘The Principal Act of Christian Worship.”  It is the source and the summit of the Christian life. 

It’s from the Eucharist that we gain our strength and grow in grace, and it is to the Eucharist that we come with a living faith to  receive “the foretaste of the heavenly banquet which is our nourishment in eternal life.” (The Church in Wales Catechism)

They met constantly to hear the apostles teach and to share the common life, to break bread and to pray.’

Acts 2:42

The Eucharist nourishes us along the way, and points us forward to the banquet of heaven, the fulfilment of our journey. It is food for the journey, from here to eternity.  On our pilgrimage through life we have a good supply of food.


Wednesday 24 February 2021


Are you on the menu?

Read

The crowds got even bigger, and Jesus addressed them:   ‘This is a wicked generation; it is asking for a sign. The only sign it will be given is the sign of Jonah. For just as Jonah became a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. On Judgement day the Queen of the South will rise up with the men of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and there is something greater than Solomon here. On Judgement day the men of Nineveh will stand up with this generation and condemn it, because when Jonah preached they repented; and there is something greater than Jonah here.’

LUKE 11:29-32

Reflect

Citizens UK, a community organising group with whom we, and many other organisations, are involved, work to a certain motto. “If you’re not sat around the table, you’re probably on the menu.” How do we effect change, when we don’t have decision making powers? How do we influence others, when others are making decisions which affect us? How do we become changers rather than people who have things done for us or to us?

In the gospel reading today, Jesus appears to be having some difficulty himself in effecting change. People just aren’t listening to him. It’s further frustrating because he cites an example of someone like Jonah whose message made its mark, and yet “there is something greater than Jonah here,” he says.

Today, like those large crowds who gathered around Jesus, we may seek or demand signs from God. Perhaps we want a sudden transformation, for God to do something spectacular, dramatic, obvious? To step in, make his mark known. And yet his voice can be heard in every generation. His teaching is present to all. He is present in the midst of all that we are called to do, he is with us always, if only we attend to him, and listen to his call. What does it take for us to effect change not only in our own lives but in the world? What needs to be changed?

Pray

God our Father, help us to be the change that is needed in the world by being changed ourselves. Open our hearts to your Spirit to accept the words of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Day 6: The Bread of Life

“I am the Bread of Life,” said Jesus. When he uses these words he places himself within the story of Israel’s wilderness years, their escape from slavery, their time of God given gifts in the desert, gifts which feed them as they wander, seeking the promised land. The following reflection feasts on those words and offers a way in which we can digest what Jesus may mean, and what it may mean for the Eucharist.

 They despair.
 They are at their wits' end.
 Homeless.
 Hungry.
 Downtrodden refugees
 trailing the sands of a wild place.
  
 Maddened nomads,
 pitching camp,
 and then, after a day or more maybe,
 they move on,
 hiding from the blanch of the sun.
  
 For forty years they will do this.
 Generations will be born into this stateless lifestyle,
 knowing no other way, no other life.
 It leaves a mark on their lives for ever,
 they are shaped by the desert.
  
 No wonder, at times,
 they despaired beyond belief.
 No wonder their leader is taking the flack,
 this hero who hits upon hard times,
 who tries to keep the people together,
 when hunger and want set in.
 A leader is destined to give direction,
 to make decisions to makes life better,
 and yet here they are not knowing which way to turn.
  
 Their dangerous, dramatic escape from slavery
 is now just a memory,
 tucked away in the past.
 Why would they feast on former glories,
 when their life is now so low?
  
 He’d promised them a land of their own,
 a paradise place where their children could flourish
 and know the meaning of home.
  
 They think themselves better off dead.
 “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt,
 when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread;
 for you have brought us out into this wilderness
 to kill this whole assembly with hunger.’ (Exodus 16: 3)
  
 God responds.
 A promise to rain down bread from heaven,
 enough for each day,
 no more, no less.
  
 They gather it, give it a name.
 ‘Manna.’
 Like coriander seed,
 white, sweet,
 the taste of wafers soaked in honey. (Exodus 16:31)
  
 We are shaped by our past,
 which is our story’s beginning.
 We are formed by former things
 by all that has been.
 It gives a sense of identity
 to a person, a people.
 It helps us know who we are,
 how we have become.
 It helps us move on,
 but can so easily trap us too.
 The past is not for living in.
  
 Jesus takes up the story,
 uses this collective memory, 
 an image of God providing for his people,
 fulfilling their hunger,
 giving them strength.,
 enough for each day.
  
 He feeds five thousand on the mountainside,
 A fare made from five loaves, two fish.
 “I am the bread of life,” he says.
 Some listeners grumble,
 unable to stomach such talk.
 It makes them sick.
  
 “Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died.
 But here is the bread that comes down from heaven,
 which anyone may eat and not die.
 I am the living bread that came down from heaven.
 Whoever eats this bread will live forever.
 This bread is my flesh,
 which I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:48-51)
  
 This moment now becomes part of our memory,
 a narrative to shape and inspire us,
 to give us a sense of identity,
 a collective memory which informs the present.
  
 In an upstairs room,
 he gives bread as his body.
 Wine as his blood.
 They eat, 
 They drink.
 They gather their past together.
 The great escape,
 the wilderness manna,
 the mountainside miracle,
 the bread, the fish,
 twelve baskets left over,
 More than enough.
  
 “Take, eat,
 this is my body,” he says,
 “given for you.”
  
  
 At Mass, the collective memory, 
 is gathered up
 and given,
 again and again,
 more than enough,
 like manna,
 like bread from heaven,
 the Bread of Life,
 rained down,
 for life. 

Tuesday 23 February 2021


To become prayer

Read

Jesus said to his disciples: ‘In your prayers do not babble as the pagans do, for they think that by using many words they will make themselves heard. Do not be like them; your Father knows what you need before you ask him. So you should pray like this: ‘Our Father in heaven, may your name be held holy, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven those who are in debt to us. And do not put us to the test, but save us from the evil one. Yes, if you forgive others their failings, your heavenly Father will forgive you yours; but if you do not forgive others, your Father will not forgive your failings either.’

MATTHEW 6: 7-15

Reflect

Many years ago, in the late nineteenth century, a priest called Fr Griffith Arthur Jones was sent to St Mary’s. He was met with much opposition. Within the parish were held prayer meetings later described by colleagues of Fr Jones as “trying ordeals” with “extempore effusions not conducive to devotion.” In a biography of Fr Jones written after his death we read that “On one occasion something or some one was compared to an “unthinking horse”; another time a person floundered hopelessly in a bog of words and ideas, and was driven to exclaim, ‘Thou knowest, Lord, what I do mean.’ On most Sundays the conversion of the Vicar and clergy to the “pure Gospel” was prayed for.” In the gospel reading today, Jesus warns his followers not to babble in their prayers using words to impress others rather than grow close to God. He then gives us a model of prayer which has characterised Christians ever since. Jesus is the perfect pray-er. He is the perfect prayer. The French Priest, Michel Quoist, once wrote, “If we knew how to listen to God, if we knew how to look around us, our whole life would become prayer.” In prayer, we lean closer to the will of God, we wait upon him, listen to him. As we take to heart the prayer of Jesus, we are drawn deeper into his own intimate relationship with the Father, learn to look at the world in a new way, so that our whole life, like Jesus, will become prayer.

Pray

God our Father, help me to listen, to learn, to yearn for your love, and to look at the world as it is in your eyes so that the whole of my life will become prayer. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Day 5: Wine and Water

Can’t cook, won’t cook, or just prefer to watch others cooking?! There’s a feast of cooking programmes on the TV these days which may mean that many of us spend more time watching other people prepare food than standing at the stove ourselves! It’s a good way, though, to be inspired to try some new dishes, learn more about food – all from the comfort of our sofa!

In the Eucharistic meal, food is prepared – just like any other meal.  Much of the preparation is done beforehand, of course: the bread baked, the wine fermented.  But as the priest (or deacon) prepares the table and food for the Mass, there are some small acts that may go unnoticed, some prayers which go unheard.

One of these moments is when the priest prepares the chalice . A small amount of water is added to the wine, and the priest silently prays the words: “By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

Tempering wine with water was common practice in the ancient world. Jews, Romans and others across the Mediterranean would have done it.  In Proverbs 9:5 we read, “Drink the wine which I have mixed for you.”  Jesus likely did this at the Last Supper too.

“By the mystery of this water and wine may we come to share in the divinity of Christ who humbled himself to share in our humanity.”

The words which accompany the mixing of water come from an ancient prayer for Christmas, and expresses a truth of Christ and his Church.  First, there is reference to what is  theologically called the ‘Hypostatic Union’ -the Christian belief that Christ is both fully human and fully divine. It also refers to the union of Christ and his Church.

St Cyprian wrote in the third century: “In the water is understood the people, but the wine is showed the blood of Christ.

“But when the water is mingled in the cup with the wine, the people are made one with Christ, and the assembly of believers is associated and conjoined with him on which it believes.”

Such a small act, the mixing of wine with water. It almost goes unnoticed by many people as the food is prepared but it’s a simply beautiful expression of Christ’s divine humanity, and how close we are to him.


Monday 22 February 2021


Key cutter or key holder?

Read

Now I have something to tell your elders: I am an elder myself, and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, and with you I have a share in the glory that is to be revealed. Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly, because God wants it; not for sordid money, but because you are eager to do it. Never be a dictator over any group that is put in your charge, but be an example that the whole flock can follow. When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the crown of unfading glory.

1 PETER 5:1-4

Reflect

How often do we go shopping and pay so little attention to the items we purchase, and how they have made their way into our lives? Quite often, the people involved in their production may be treated rather unfairly, and we smile at the bargain with no idea of the real cost to people’s lives. Likewise, how are the people who have served us been treated? Are they on less than the Real Living Wage, do they live with a zero hours contract, are they struggling with an employer who treats them unfairly. And yet there are also wonderful examples of good management of people. The key cutter company Timpson have an up “upside down” management approach. To give best customer services they give their employees freedom. They have only two rules. “Look the part. Put the money in the till.” They trust those whom they employ, allow them to make decisions borne from their own knowledge and experience of their customers. “Never be a dictator over any group that is put in your charge, but be an example that the whole flock can follow,” said St Peter. Sometimes, the church can easily miss the point. Those in leadership can mistake authority for power. Peter knew this, to the extent that he had to remind the leaders of the church community to which he was writing to “be shepherds of the flock entrusted to them.” He, of all people knew this. He was “an elder” himself, and a witness to the sufferings of Christ, “and with you I have a share in the glory that is to be revealed,” he says. And, of course, he himself was given the keys to the kingdom of heaven. So, whether we are a key cutter or a key holder, we are called to be gentle with those entrusted to our care, and sometimes spare them some slack to make decisions which perhaps they know to be right. “When the chief shepherd appears, you will be given the crown of unfading glory.”

Pray

God our Father, help us to be gentle with those given to our care. May we value the offering that each person makes, and rejoice in each of the gifts you give to all. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.