Day 3: Table Talk

Eating in silence with others can be a strange experience. Anyone who’s spent some time in a Religious Community on retreat and been invited to eat with the monks or nuns will experience some time of eating in silence.

We tried it a few times in College during our Lenten Retreat, although I dishonoured myself by allowing someone to make me laugh. The more I wasn’t allowed to laugh the worse it got, and so I left the table! Ignominious.

Many Religious Communities, at particular meals, also enjoy a slightly different experience when those who are sharing and serving the meal are read to. A book is chosen, read from beginning to end over a number of days or weeks. It’s not necessarily a religious text. It could be an autobiography or memoir, a travel book or novel – something that’s nourishing to the mind, informative, even entertaining. It’s one way, perhaps, of ensuring that talk at table is good quality!

That’s not to say that, for us, time at table can’t be a talkative occasion, as we catch up on tittle tattle, enjoy one another’s company, have fun.  But that practice of being read to, attending to something that is nourishing to the mind and spirit can be a lovely activity even if only seldom experienced.

The art of listening is important.  Sometimes, we simply don’t listen enough, so eager are we to talk, or to be distracted by something or someone else. 

How often have we been irritated when we sense that someone isn’t listening to us, when they haven’t attended to our question or heard something we’ve said to them, or a need we’ve shared with them.  How demoralising is it when the person you’re speaking to appears to be looking over your shoulder to see if anyone more interesting is around to talk to?

The art of listening is important.  Sometimes, we simply don’t listen enough, so eager are we to talk, or to be distracted by something or someone else. 

An important part of the Eucharist is The Liturgy of the Word through which God speaks to his people, and opens up to us the mystery of redemption and salvation.  Through the readings from Holy Scriptures our spirit is nourished, and Christ himself is present in the midst of the faithful through his word.

But God doesn’t simply speak to us as though we were passive listeners.  Since he sealed the Covenant on Mount Sinai, he has entered into a dialogue with his chosen people, both speaking and listening, responding in love, having patience even when they grumble and mumble.

This Covenant is renewed and fulfilled on another hill, Calvary.  “This is my blood of the new covenant,” said Jesus.  In the Eucharist, we enter into the unending dialogue between God and his covenant people, a dialogue sealed in the cross, and experienced in the sharing of the Eucharistic food.

The dialogue and exchange between God and his people continues.  We need to be attentive to what God is saying to us through Holy Scripture, confident that he attends to us too, listens to us speaking, sees the needs we bring, hears the prayer we make.

Whilst there is much use of silence at the Eucharistic table, there is also much talk, a rich dialogue, beautiful, timeless, transforming.

This is one of a series of 40 Meditations on the Mass for Lent 2021 from the Parish of Cardiff St Mary the Virgin

Friday 19 February 2021

Pulling a fast one


John’s disciples came to Jesus and said, ‘Why is it that we and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not?’ Jesus replied, ‘Surely the bridegroom’s attendants would never think of mourning as long as the bridegroom is still with them? But the time will come for the bridegroom to be taken away from them, and then they will fast.’’

LUKE 9:14-15


“Love and marriage, love and marriage, goes together like a horse and carriage,” so the old song goes. Of course, in today’s society, the number of people getting married has dropped in number, and it doesn’t mean that those who choose not to get married don’t love each other! But it does mean that those who marry must love each other. The vows exchanged aren’t simply a contractual agreement, they are promises of love, and love fills the vows made. In today’s reading, Jesus uses an image of marriage to convey something of himself. John’s disciples wonder if Jesus and his disciples are pulling a fast one when it comes to fasting! But Jesus is the bridegroom, and he has come for a marriage, a marriage based on love. And like a bridegroom’s best man in our own day who attends to the groom, supports and assists him, coordinates celebrations, is filled with happiness and excitement for his friend, so Jesus’ disciples are filled with joy when they are in his presence. But, he reminds them, the bridegroom will be taken away, and then their joy will cease for a time, their hearts will be broken, their hopes dashed, their dreams dissolved. One aspect of fasting is penitential or sorrowful. Perhaps we do this in many areas of life without even thinking about it. We may be hard on ourselves, even punish ourselves in some way because of some feeling of guilt or personal responsibility for things done wrong, or to show that we are sorry, to express our sorrow. So too with our fasting through Lent. It can be a sign of sorrow for our sins for which Christ died. Fasting is uncomfortable because sometimes our relationship with Christ is made uncomfortable by the way we live. But he has laid down his life for us and we, in turn, are called to lay down our lives for him.


God our Father, as we take the first steps on our Lenten journey help us to be open and honest about our sins, and to draw closer to you in penitence and love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Day 2: A Doorway to Heaven

On the doors of the Tabernacle at St Mary’s is a beautiful painting portraying the Annunciation. It shows the moment when Gabriel greets Mary who responds to God by saying ‘Yes’ to his plans for her and the world. It’s the moment of Incarnation, when God takes flesh.

Mary was the first to receive Jesus, and the painting of that scene from the gospels is beautifully placed there on the Tabernacle doors, beyond which is enshrined the Sacramental Body of Christ which we receive in the Eucharist.

St Teresa of Calcutta who ministered to the poorest of the world’s poor in Calcutta, reflected on this when she wrote about the Annunciation and Mary’s journey to the hill country of Judah, to the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth, pregnant with John who would become the Baptist.

“Like Mary, let us be full of zeal to go in haste to give Jesus to others. She was full of grace when, at the Annunciation, she received Jesus. Like her, we too become full of grace every time we receive Holy Communion. It is the same Jesus whom she received and whom we receive at Mass.”

“As soon as she received him she went with haste to give him to John.  For us also, as soon as we receive Jesus in Holy Communion, let us go in haste to give him to our Sisters, to our poor, to the sick, to the dying, to the lepers, to the unwanted and the unloved.  By this we make Jesus present Jesus present in the world today.”

“Like Mary, let us be full of zeal to go in haste to give Jesus to others. She was full of grace when, at the Annunciation, she received Jesus. Like her, we too become full of grace every time we receive Holy Communion.”

St Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Whilst Mary’s vocation was unique and unrepeatable, we are called to be like her, to open our lives to God’s Spirit, to bear Christ in our lives so that we may make him present in the world today.

In the Eucharist, we become a Tabernacle for the Lord, a holy dwelling place, a doorway to Heaven.

Thursday 18 February 2021

Healing Wounds


Jesus said to his disciples: ‘The Son of Man is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.’ Then to all he said: ‘If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself and take up his cross every day and follow me. For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake, that man will save it. What gain, then, is it for a man to have won the whole world and to have lost or ruined his very self?’

LUKE 9:22-25


There’s a little story told by Cardinal Basil Hume in one of his books about a nun who was having some difficulty with one thing in particular in the convent. She spoke to her Mother Superior about it, who curtly responded, “Sister, carry your cross, don’t drag it!” We all have burdens to bear, crosses to carry. Sometimes, we may willingly carry the cross, embracing it for the sake of someone else perhaps. Most crosses, though, are not chosen – they are thrust upon us, like Simon of Cyrene, pulled from the crowd, and burdened, for a while, with the cross of Jesus. A few decades ago, a colleague had spent a week in London, spending time with a Christian organisation who ministered to those affected by HIV and AIDS, in the days when life and treatment were very different. One person described his HIV status as having a gift wrapped in barbed wire. Perhaps his diagnosis at the time, as painful as it was, also brought with it a fresh perspective on his life and living. Perhaps he valued friends and family more, was given an impetus to take stock of his life – but it came at a cost. Whatever the cross we have to carry, whether for us or for others, it can often provide moments of beauty. There is a beautiful painting by Stanley Spencer of Jesus in the wilderness. He is sat down and in the palm of his hands is a scorpion which Jesus stares at intently. His face is filled with compassion and love. Despite the propensity to sting and hurt and harm, the scorpion is gazed upon with love. we read in Sacred Scripture, ‘By his wounds we are healed.”


God our Father, may we be strengthened to carry the burdens of life, the cross of our faith, and when shouldering even the heaviest load, discover the beauty of your healing love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Day 1: A Taste of Heaven

“What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” asked the boy.
“Help,” said the horse.
“When have you been at your strongest?” asked the boy.
“When I have dared to show my weakness.”

And so the gentle conversation goes throughout their journey, across the pages of Charles Mackesy’s beautiful book, “The Boy, the mole, the fox and the Horse.”

Ash Wednesday has much to say of weakness, and in an honest account of his own life when writing to the Church of Corinth, St Paul mentions an unnamed weakness of his own which he describes as a ‘thorn in the flesh.’

“Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’ So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-10)

A cross is traced on our forehead, a mark made in ashes. ‘Remember you are dust and to dust shall you return,” says the priest. Ash Wednesday. We are weak and fragile with a propensity to sin, to make a mess of the world, of our lives. None of us is immune to mistakes, or behaving in a way that causes hurt and harm to others and ourselves. Perhaps, at times, our sense of sin is too narrow. It seems, at times, that we are nothing but dust.

“To live is to change, to be perfect is to have changed often,” wrote St John Henry Newman, and so the slow process of change begins afresh each day, gaining fresh impetus during Lent, our lives alive with possibility during this, the ‘Springtime of the Church.’

“To live is to change, to be perfect is to have changed often”

St John Henry Newman

Into the dust and ashes, and the need to change, comes the Eucharist, described by Clement of Alexandria as ‘the Medicine of Immortality.’ In a world where sickness and death surrounds us, the Eucharist calls us back to our hope and destiny: to live with God for ever. We can’t do this by our own merits but only because God wants it and wills it. Through the death and resurrection of Christ new possibilities emerge, the possibility of heaven, a taste of which is given in the Eucharist.

As Jesus visited those who were sick, as he went to the bedside of Simon’s Mother in Law, called to the home of Jairus’s daughter, so too he visits us, he dwells with us, he comes to help and heal. In our sorrow we draw close to his sorrow. In our weakness, we cling to the cross of Christ who takes away the sins of the world.

“Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.’

2 Corinthians 12:8

One of the silent prayers the priest makes before receiving Communion asks that it may be for us “a healing remedy.” We are human beings susceptible to sickness and pain, to sin and weakness. We are fragile and sometimes afraid. We bring these fears and our own fragility to Christ in the Eucharist. We reach out to him who comes to us, he hears our cries for help.

“I’ve realised why we are here,” whispered the boy.
“For cake?” asked the mole.
“To love,” said the boy.
“And be loved,” said the horse.

God is Love, and the Eucharist is the food of love, a beautifully prepared and delivered meal, alive with possibilities, filled with meaning, the Medicine of Immortality.

It strengthens us in our weakness, fulfils our hunger, quenches our thirst, lifts our eyes and hearts beyond the here and now to give us a taste of heaven.

This is one of a series of 40 Meditations on the Mass for Lent 2021 from the Parish of Cardiff St Mary the Virgin

Wednesday 17 February 2021

Inside out


‘When you fast do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they pull long faces to let men know they are fasting. I tell you solemnly, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you.’

MaTTHEW 6:16-18


“You’re looking well,” my mother always says – when I’ve put on a bit of weight! Perhaps at some level she sees it as an expression that I’m eating well, surely a sign of health and wellbeing! Meanwhile, how do you feel when you’re feeling alright and someone asks if you are ok, and suggests that you’re not looking well! Sometimes, looks can deceive. Jesus addresses both external appearance and inner well being in his teaching in today’s reading. Fasting is a fine spiritual discipline filled with a multitude of fruits. It strengthens self discipline, offers a sacrificial gesture, a physical act to convey our love and commitment, a proof that we are serious. It can make room in our lives for other things, too, and can benefit the lives of others if, in our giving up, we give to others. All of these fruits can be borne in our lives through fasting. But Jesus warns that such a personal, inner movement of the heart should be reflected on the outside with the same purity of intention. The long faced Pharisees want to convince others of the cost of their fasting so that others may see and say how good they are, how strong, committed and faithful. But our fasting is for God. We give because we have been given to, we love because we are loved, we serve because Jesus has shown us how to serve. May Lent bring you much health and well-being, inside and out.


God our Father, as we begin the season of Lent, may all we do be filled with sincerity of heart, a purity of faith, and a love of your Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Tuesday 16 February 2021

Dumbfounded afresh


The disciples had forgotten to take any food and they had only one loaf with them in the boat. Then he gave them this warning, ‘Keep your eyes open; be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and the yeast of Herod.’ And they said to one another, ‘It is because we have no bread.’ And Jesus knew it, and he said to them, ‘Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you not yet understand? Have you no perception? Are your minds closed? Have you eyes that do not see, ears that do not hear? Or do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ They answered, ‘Twelve.’ ‘And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many baskets full of scraps did you collect?’ And they answered, ‘Seven.’ Then he said to them, ‘Are you still without perception?’

Mark 8:14-21


It happens to every preacher. You think you have a great illustration to lead you into a gospel message, and which is so relative to people’s lives, so familiar to them, that you’ll have the congregation in the palm of your hand before you take them on a more profound journey into the gospel. It could be a TV programme or an amusing anecdote from your own life or something from the news. And then, afterwards, someone will approach you to talk about your homily. Yes, you’ve inspired them! Until you realise that they simply like the same TV programme too! Well, if you’re a preacher, it’s happened to better people before us, and it certainly happened to Jesus. The apostles are worrying about lunch, and so he uses the image of bread to teach them some truths. But they just don’t get it. In true comic style, they ask each other, “Is it because we have no bread?” They can’t see the wood for the trees. It’s so easy to miss the point, to be distracted by and dwell on ordinary things and miss the extraordinariness before our eyes. In his poem, Fulbright Scholars, Ted Hughes writes, “It was the first peach I had ever tasted. | I could hardly believe how delicious. | At twenty-five I was dumfounded afresh | By my ignorance of the simplest things.” Perhaps, today, we can look at the world with more open eyes of faith, dumfounded afresh by our ignorance of the simplest things, open to truths just waiting to be discovered.


God our Father, open our eyes to see you, our ears to hear you, our hearts to love you. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Monday 15 February 2021

Snappy Messiah


The Pharisees came up and started a discussion with Jesus; they demanded of him a sign from heaven, to test him. And with a sigh that came straight from the heart he said, ‘Why does this generation demand a sign? I tell you solemnly, no sign shall be given to this generation.’ And leaving them again and re-embarking, he went away to the opposite shore.

Mark 8:11-13


It’s a phrase designed, I think, to clip your wings, and stop you in your tracks, and to get you to back down. Yes, it’s the phrase, “That’s not very Christian.” Often it comes from those outside the Christian Faith and who may have a preconceived idea of what Christians should do and how they should respond to things. Christians use it with each other, too, perhaps when challenging one another, or when criticising a decision made or a course of action taken. Finally, of course, and most profoundly, it can be used to criticise something that doesn’t quite stand up to the measure of Christ. And yet, it’s all to easy to gloss over the Sacred Humanity of Christ, and to allow images of him to dominate and misrepresent who he was and is. Here, in the gospel reading we have the ‘impatient Christ’, the ‘snappy Messiah.’ Jesus heaves a huge sigh of heartfelt irritation at the Pharisees’ demand for a sign from heaven. He swiftly snaps that no sign will be given, and then sharply turns away. He won’t give into their preconceived notions, or fulfil their tedious demands. There are many human emotions described as ‘not very Christian’ and we may feel guilty if we exhibit them at times. And yet all of our emotions are part of what it means to be human, and so also what it may mean to be divine. Perhaps it’s more about using these emotions for good not bad, to fill them with love, sincerity and truth. We can, at times, be angry – for instance, if it’s an anger towards injustice, having a love for what is right. We can be snappy at wrongs done to us or to others, speaking up and speaking out when necessary. We can even, like Jesus, be impatient with trying, testing people. After all, perhaps at times a heartfelt sigh is often more fruitful and faithful than a sickly smile!


God our Father, help us to be at home with our human emotions, to soften them when needed, to use them wisely and sensitively, and fill them with love for you and the world you have created. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Setting Off

For the journey: what makes us who we are?

At the heart of our life together is the Holy Eucharist but, like anything that is so familiar and everyday, we can easily take for granted and forget the great gift we are being given.

Each day, for the 40 days of Lent, we’ll be reflecting on the Eucharist.  Some of the daily posts will offer a longer reflection, whilst others will simply share and briefly reflect on some lovely prayers and Eucharistic hymns. 

There’ll be some sayings and stories of the Saints, too, who themselves have been nourished and sustained by the Holy Eucharist throughout their earthly pilgrimage.

We hope that, as we journey through the 40 days of Lent we’ll receive a fresh appreciation of the great Mystery of the Mass, and grow in love for Jesus, as we draw close to his saving death and resurrection.

In addition to this Lenten project, we’ll still be sharing our usual daily posts with a bible reading, brief reflection and prayer.

40 days | an explanation

If you count the days between Ash Wednesday and Easter you’ll get more than forty days!  Not included in the traditional 40 days of Lent are the Sundays of Lent, and so our reflections will be posted every day apart from Sunday. 

Sunday 14 February 2021

A gentle touch


A leper came to Jesus and pleaded on his knees: ‘If you want to’ he said ‘you can cure me.’ Feeling sorry for him, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. ‘Of course I want to!’ he said. ‘Be cured!’ And the leprosy left him at once and he was cured. 

Mark 81:40-42


Yes, it’s the touch that does it, the thing that is worthy of mention, marked out, a simple gesture with staggering repercussions. In the ancient world, those who suffered from leprosy were untouchables, pushed out of the community, a person from whom others turned away, turned down, Sadly, there are untouchables today – people who are disregarded, downtrodden, despised, treated as less than human, second rate. The recent staggering TV series, ‘It’s a Sin’ reminds us how those who first experienced the devastating pandemic of HIV and AIDS in the 1980s were treated. For a while they became untouchable, hidden, an embarrassment, someone to fear. And this in our lifetime, our country. The touch of Jesus not only brought physical healing to the man with leprosy, it cut through taboo, broke down barriers. His sympathy and sorrow for the man restored his dignity, his need for human connections. Perhaps, as important as it was for him to be released from a physical infliction, it’s the touch that may bring the greatest healing of all. Love changes everything. Love conquers all. Sometimes, all it needs is a gentle touch to change the world.


God our Father, help us to reach out with love and compassion to those who feel unloved or forgotten. Give us courage. Fill our hearts with love. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.