This time of year, between Christmas and Lent, the gospels show us Jesus ‘going public’. There’s excitement in the air. He has good news: cripples are healed, the blind see, the sick and the great unwashed are given new hope and something better to live for.
The winter solstice has come and gone. Soon the days will lengthen. The long grass will grow again and birds will start to sing once more…. Once upon a time the true light came to our darkened world. It promised never to fade, dim or disappear. The shepherds, the Magi, even old Simeon and Anna in the temple recognised the light of the world.
“Little children, let us not love in word or speech, but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn3:18). These words of the Apostle John voice an imperative that no Christian may disregard. The seriousness with which the “beloved disciple” hands down Jesus’ command to our own day is made even clearer by the contrast between the empty words so frequently on our lips and the concrete deeds against which we are called to measure ourselves. Love has no alibi. Whenever we set out to love as Jesus loved, we have to take the Lord as our example; especially when it comes to loving the poor. The Son of God’s way of loving is well-known, and John spells it out clearly. It stands on two pillars: God loved us first (cf. 1 Jn 4:10.19), and he loved us by giving completely of himself, even to laying down his life (cf. 1 Jn 3:16).
October in wine country, whether it is Burgundy in France or Sonoma in California, is vintage time. Countryside’s are alive with all the colors of autumn leaves and hillsides are weighted with vineyards heavy with fruit. These are memorable sights to behold.
Here and Hereafter A older man in a business suit sat across from me on the suburban train. He was reading William Taubman’s recent hefty biography of Mikhail Gorbachev. As he paused to look down at the rocks and sea below, I asked, “What do you think of Gorbachev?” “Oh, this is, among other things, a great 20th century Russian love story,” he said, tapping the book, “and so well written. He loved his wife, Raissa, and he loved the Russian people.” We chatted for a few minutes during which he mentioned how Gorbachev was rejected by the very people
Jesus has words of caution for those who might wish to follow him: be ready to deny yourselves and take up your cross. That involves more than grasping the nettle of life that everyone has to grasp in order to grow. The cross will take its shape and weight in the circumstances that believers find themselves in life.
Bombs and explosives, killer vans and forest fires, mudslides and floods, gangs and cartels. Jails that are overflowing and churches that are near-empty. TV images of people running for their lives. What’s going on? Who’s in charge? Has hope abandoned our world?
A recent trip to Moscow and St Petersburg was eye-opening and a bit mind-boggling. The majestic palaces beautifully restored from the imperial centuries, the huge museums that house old European and Russian art treasures, and the onion-domed cathedrals that strain at the seams with stunning icons and mosaics – each one in itself a cultural and visual feast.
There’s much heart-ache in life. We dream of getting away from the pressures and resting in the hammock of delight. But we can’t let go the daily agenda so as to eat and enjoy what we’ve cooked. There’s little permission in our culture for rest and silent listening. “Come to me, all you who labor and are overburdened and I will give you rest.” An attractive invitation to those who are seduced by their desires. There’s an artificial urgency that tends to dissolve Jesus’ call to those who would follow him. A little discipline might help us to lighten
All sorts of folk drop by our local bakery. It may be for a chat, a quiet read over a cappuchino, escape from the house, a couple of tourists to check it out or whatever. I am not immune to any of the above and I like to engage with others in the congenial surround of the bakery and its denizens.