PARDON IN THE SAND (A Meditation)

Jesus said, "Let the one who is without sin be the first to cast a stone."

I am the woman
Discovered undercover
Caught in the act
Exhumed from hiding
Beneath skin and flesh
The secret desirings
Of heart and mind

I am the boy
Who took refuge there
A place of escape
And safe solace
My habitual habitation

I am every one
Who exists on the outside
The other side of right

And there is nothing
That will not be revealed
In the end

And this is my end

The law abiding strong
Throng my orthodox accuser
With only one solution
The right of righteousness

I am petrified
Panic stricken stood bowed
Barely able to breathe

What will the first
Struck stone feel like?

What part of me
Will bleed and break
Before I am all blood broken
Bone splintered?

I gasp for air
For life

But God is merciful
He who alone is Good
Stands upright
Sees all that I am - ALL -
Absorbs me into Himself

He bends down
So that my bending
Now has no shame in it

And He writes my Pardon
In the sand.

Great is His Name
Amen

ST. CATHERINE'S HEART



Prise open the night
The clammed shut tightness
Of  the wounded heart O God

And let Light enter
Where fear has taken hold
Timidity hiding behind the door

Cowering lest the cruel word
Should penetrate once more
Leaving it raw exposed

I will give you a new Heart
Says the Lord
The Heart pierced through
Broken open

My own strong Heart
By which you can 
Go on living

One beat
One moment
No set expectations

Faithfully
Steadfast
In Spirit

WAITING IN THE HOT SUN

My good friend the late Sr. Shirley Smith MMM in Tanzania


It happened to me a few times in Tanzania that I got stranded when my car broke down miles away from anywhere. Fortunately I always had someone with me who could go for help while I waited with the car. 

Waiting in the hot sun for hours on end is very challenging – the intense heat, the thirst, the tiredness, the not knowing when help would come. And I remember on one occasion getting back to the Mission house where there was watermelon on the table. I went for it with all the might of my thirst, devoured it and the relief it brought is something I will never forget. It was sheer grace upon the dryness of my parched throat! And when I think about the effect of God’s grace in my life, I think of watermelon, the effect of watermelon on my thirst.

So when I read today’s gospel about the men waiting to be hired (Matthew 20:1-16), my sympathy automatically goes to the men who waited or worked in the heat all day long. But especially I feel for the ones who waited – not knowing if they would get work at all and then not knowing how they would be able to feed their wife and children because they haven’t got the money to buy food. It's the kind of pressure that many in our society face every day.

The not knowing, the uncertainty, the anxiety, the fear! And maybe even the shame of not being able! We all know these feelings at some time or other in life, at some level of life. 

It may not have to do with providing on a material level – it can be spiritual, emotional, mental or moral uncertainty. It can be anxiety over your child's education, health and future. It may be the not knowing of the sick who wait for a hospital appointment, the feeling of being left out, of not being chosen that the young sometimes experience among their peers; the sense of being forgotten that comes to older people; the uselessness experienced by the homeless.

Jesus is telling us that God feels for us in such situations. He feels the distress. He understands the heat of the day, in whatever way it comes upon us. He is always close to us in our struggles and it is through our distress that we are driven to understand our need of Him, to know that we cannot get through any of this life on our own. Our experiences of uncertainty, anxiety and fear in some ways drive us to seek God more earnestly, to thirst for Him and allow him to quench that thirst, to bring relief to our anxieties and our fears.

And so we seek the Lord now in whatever it is we are experiencing, when we think there is no way through a situation -  to understand that He always has a way, that His ways are different to our, different and infinitely better. He offers us the soothing grace of Jesus, a grace that relieves, refreshes and restores. It is what is offered when we gather together to pray at Mass or wherever two or three gather in His name. It is offered in the solitude of personal prayer! And it is never a once-off experience - we need to return to it every day.

No matter how dry or meaningless our lives appear to be, there is always hope in Jesus as Pope Francis reminds us:

“Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs, or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. You have to trust God.”

LIVING WITH THE HEART OF JESUS - Eamonn Monson sac


St. Catherine of Sienna had a mystical experience in which she was taken to heaven where she experienced true joy in the presence of the Lord. It is said that Jesus came to her after some time and told her it was time to return to the world and she begged Him not to send her back. "But I need you to go and Love" He told her. "I am not able to love" she replied. Then Jesus took her heart from her, went away and came back a few days later with a shining human heart. He opened her side and put the heart within her saying: “Dearest daughter, as I took your heart away from you the other day, now, you see, I am giving you mine, so that you can go on living with it for ever” 

I'm not sure how accurate this telling of her experience is but the latter part is taken from Pope Benedict XVI's General Audience November 24, 2010.

The important thing is that she was given the heart of Jesus himself, to live and love with His heart.

Her experience came to mind when I was reflecting on the readings for the 23rd Sunday and the very clear calling that we have to confront others with their sin when it's necessary. The prophet is warned with his life to correct the person who is on the wrong path, the path of sin. (Ezekiel 33:7-9) In the gospel Jesus speaks without the same harshness on the same subject. (Matthew 18:15-20) Both readings present us with something very uncomfortable. If the correction is not given or not received then there is loss of life, salvation and exclusion. It would be easier to avoid these teachings but since they are the Word of God, they cannot be dismissed.

Why St. Catherine came to mind in this context is that whatever correcting of others we do, it should be done as Christ would do it, it should emanate from His own loving heart. Correction should always be an expression of love - tough love it may be - and it is always aimed at the salvation of the other.

St. Catherine's experience is with me again as I reflect on the readings for today, September 17 - the call to forgive and keep on forgiving the one who has hurt me; to forgive as God repeatedly forgives me my sins. Christian forgiveness is given, not just seven times but seventy seven times - and in some translations it's seventy times seven. So it's meant to be unlimited.

Most of the time we're able to offer this kind of forgiveness with the internal resources that God ordinarily gives us but there are times when the hurt done to us makes it very difficult - seemingly impossible - to recover and so even more difficult to offer the kind of forgiveness by which we let go completely. I'm talking about the kind of hurt that is inflicted by an abusive person, an abuse that damages, maybe even destroys the core of who we are.

Nobody has the right to do this to another so, when Jesus talks about forgiveness He is not in any way condoning the hurt inflicted. He is not saying to the wounded, "get over it" as many people do.

What He does in the experience of His Passion is to identify himself with us in our wounded state and He remains with us through the whole experience. His intention is to bring us through to new life. When I feel mentally or emotionally hurt by another, when I am traumatized by the hurt, then I find myself with Jesus at the crowning of thorns, in that moment of His silence when they mock and spit on Him and beat Him. I can enter into the grace of His silence, knowing as He does that "my cause is with the Lord" (Isaiah 50).

When Jesus asks me to forgive in this context I find myself saying with St. Catherine, "I am not able!" Of course as a Christian I forgive with my will, with my head I choose to forgive but emotional forgiveness is another thing altogether.

Jesus doesn't give me the same mystical experience as Catherine but He does give me the reality of His own heart in the Eucharist, the reality of himself and this becomes the power beyond myself by which I will fully forgive and be healed in the process of forgiving. "I can do all things with the help of Him who gives me strength!" (Philippians 4:13)

The prophecy becomes a reality in Jesus, particularly in the Eucharist - "I will take out of your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh instead...a new heart I will give you and put a new spirit within you." (Ezekiel 36)


My role is to let it be done by the grace of God, to want it to be done, to hand over the hurt, let it go and no longer nurse it. And to enter into the prayer of Jesus, the Spirit of Jesus praying within, "Father forgive them for they know not what they are doing!" (Luke 23:34) Even if I cannot say that prayer myself, I let Jesus say it on my behalf until it becomes my own. Then I will be truly free as God intends me to be, so it's important to persevere and not to give up when nothing seems to be happening.

ALEPH (Sacred Quiet)




















You take me away
To Aleph when creation was
Not yet begun

Inserting my life
Into that Silence before
Speech was born

Word waiting eternally
Spirit hovering
Making sense

Of the senseless
Formless void

Here in the Sacred
Quiet, my Father
I wait

For You to speak

In the tumult
Of Creating Love
Like crashing waves

Reshaping

The Life that bids me
Leap from solid ground
Into the air

And carried where
The wild enfolding
Breath of Spirit goes

You are ever

My Alpha and Omega
Beginning and my End
The Aleph and the Tav

SOLITUDE




















From the deep and rich
Recesses of my solitude
I reach out to yours

Your silence
Speaks to mine
Souls laid bare

Breathing grace
Into our mutual
Aloneness

Expanding the heart
Stretching the emptiness
Inhabited by Love

Newly born
Never before
Tasted

We hold each other close
As a prelude to letting go
Not knowing when the return

BETWEEN HORIZON AND SHORE (Luke 5)


Our destination
Is that place between
Horizon and shore

The shallows
Left behind us
Now

The deep
Untameable
Wildness

Is where we
Labour in vain
In exile

Until all is wasted
And we have given
Up hope

Holding only one
Thread of trust that
He has a plan

And plummeting
Again at His command
We witness miracles

That almost take us
Under and leave us kneeling
In contrite astonishment

Don't Let The Sun Go Down - Returning to the Haven of Hastings


It's the last song I'll hear in my red Toyota Yaris - Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me has come up randomly on my playlist. Elton John. Summer 1974! It ends as the car pulls up to the door of St. Benin’s in Shankill. Synchronicity!

It reminds me of my cousin Anita singing the line “don’t discard me” with a little bit of mockery! And , more seriously, it also brings to mind St. Paul’s "Do not let the sun go down on your anger!" (Ephesians 4:26) which is always easier said than done but still always to be aspired to. Don't let the sun go down! But it does!

The crossing of the Jordan featured in the readings at Mass recently and I’m aware that in crossing the Irish Sea I have crossed my own Jordan, with stuff to leave behind,  taking with me only what is necessary – materially, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. It’s a great opportunity.

I've brought the car back to Shankill where it belongs and I'm on my way back to Hastings where I belong. 

I'm only there long enough to have lunch but it was so good  to sit at the old familiar table and taste the food and the life that I had become so accustomed to and loved. John left me to the Aircoach bus stop.

Traffic is shocking. There's a fire in the Port Tunnel and it seems that every lorry in Dublin is at a standstill. So the bus has had to turn back and find another route. Already an hour and thirty minutes since we left Shankill. 

It's got people talking, phoning. Tense. We might all be late but I'm not tense. Yet! It's 3pm and I pray. Divine Mercy. Two hours now. Whitehall. It'll be alright. 

The airport is jammed with people but not chaotic for all of that. Where are we all going and what are we about?

On board two little children are screaming at each other over the window seat. Right in front of me! A high pitched, relentless sound that seems to bring pleasure to the adoring father. "I don't like you." is the final insult they throw at each other? Then they settle - after a fashion. 

At Gatwick airport my visa debit card is rejected a few times as I try to buy my train ticket to Hastings. Embarrassing and a bit worrying! I wonder if it’s been cleaned out. But luckily not! It was blocked by the bank following a few suspicious transactions which were not mine. Those who dealt with me from the bank were absolutely wonderful, bending over backwards to help me out.

So I’m back in Hastings now after a few busy and very interesting weeks. Much too littletime with my family. Not as much time as I would have liked with friends, neighbours and relations but most enjoyable. Three weddings! Two trips to Aran! A long weekend in Spain with my Camino family! Our bonds of love have not only endured but deepened and will be sustenance for the next stage of my journey.

Pat and Kathie Davey came to visit and brought with them the painting of St. Anne’s church which Barbara Dunne painted for me before leaving. It hangs in the sitting room where I can see it from my armchair and be grateful.

I have always told the people in Shankill that they taught me how to be a priest and, when I was praying here the other day, this new thought occurred to me – that my departure from Shankill created in the community there such an incredible surge, a powerful impulse of love, a love that gave birth to me anew, gave me new life and that God has delivered me - this new life - to Hastings which I experience now as a haven of peace and refuge. And here I will be born again in a new impulse of love. The love of Christ that overwhelms us, urges us and impels us! (2 Corinthian 5)