Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Let the dead, bury their own dead

Sometimes, even in our churches we find those inclined to gossip and make mischief. There are many theories as to what underpins this tendency of course; for some its to feel superior or gain attention, for others it’s for retribution if they feel wronged in some way (hell hath no fury like a woman scorned) or to find a suitable scapegoat perhaps.

The victims of gossip can suffer a great deal as a consequence but there is a tried and tested way of combatting gossips. Silence. I have it on good authority, from one who received a good measure of false witness against him.

 When he complained to the Lord about it privately in his heart he received that he was to remain silent and to ‘let the dead, bury their own dead’. The context of the juicy gossip made this passage particularly apt and rather amusing ; truly those who engage in gossip are digging their own graves, as are those whose ear is turned and receive deceit in their hearts. Best to lend them the shovel of silence and let them get on with it!

Monday, 28 March 2016

Dying Embers

St Patrick had a vision of Ireland where he was shown the state of the Church in Ireland. At first he saw the whole land like a great furnace whose flames reached to the sky and he heard the voice of an Angel declare “such is now – the state of Ireland in the eyes of the Lord’ As the vision continued he saw it change as the centuries rolled by until eventually all that remained were a few live coals buried and burning deep in the earth. Patrick wept at the sight.

I am told that my maternal grandfather, at the end of each day, assembled his family in the living room of their farmhouse in Leitrim and they all knelt down and prayed the rosary together.

Whilst it is likely that this devotion was alloyed to some degree with obligation and perhaps fear; the discipline of that daily prayer, together as a family, kept them at peace with one another and on the straight and narrow. The house and each one in it was bathed in prayer and returning grace. Somehow, in those days this was enough to carry that generation through life and to eternity. 

The effect of that daily family prayer may not have been obvious as to its effect ; it only becomes obvious when it’s gone as in our day where families are splintered with misunderstanding, argument, separation, and divorce. Correlation between decline in family prayer and the faith underpinning it and an increase in broken families is clear enough. As most of the First World is in a similar condition perhaps we have seen enough to know it’s time to return to God and to prayer.

St Patrick’s vision did not end in unhappy defeat, in his vision after the darkness; a light arose and began to grow again until Ireland returned to its ‘first state of all-pervading fire’

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Sr Euphraxia

Chapter XXVI (from stories of the desert fathers/ sisters)
One day the gatekeeper came to the abbess with an urgent message.
"My lady," she said, "there is a woman standing weeping outside the gate with her child of about eight years old, paralysed, deaf and dumb."
The abbess knew by the revelation of the Spirit that Euphraxia had been given the grace of the Lord against demons.
"Ask Euphraxia to come here," she said to the gatekeeper. And when she appeared she said to her:
"Go and take that child from his mother and bring him here."
She went out to the gate and when she saw the child, paralysed and trembling, she was over come with compassion, heaved a deep sigh and made the sign of the cross over him.
"May he who created you heal you, my son," she said.
And she picked him up and took him to the abbess. While she was carrying him the boy was healed and began to cry for his mother, which gave Euphraxia such a start that she dropped the boy on the floor. The boy immediately got up and ran towards the gate, still crying for his mother. Meanwhile the gatekeeper ran to the abbess to tell her what had happened. The abbess called the mother of the child.
"Now look here, my sister," she said, "Have you come here simply to pay tricks on us?
"In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, my lady," said the mother, "that child has never walked or spoken a word until this present moment. But when that other sister picked him up he began to speak! She was so startled she dropped him on the floor, but the child got up immediately and ran to me, your servant."
"So then, he is completely restored to you!" she said. "Take him and go in peace."
Which she did, and departed glorifying God.

Monday, 14 March 2016

Economics of Corruption

I had the opportunity to join a medical mission recently, just as a roadie, moving supplies and equipment but I was able to see the best and worst of humanity all in one place.

The doctors, dentists, and nurses were giving their time and expertise for free to the poor community and a wealthy sponsor paid for the medicines and transport. Several hundred people came and received whatever treatment they needed but could not afford… which was a wonderful thing to see. As Christians the motivation of the workers was really to bring the love of God to the people through sharing their skills.

The venue was a primary school and we set up shop in the different classrooms for the various services on offer. I couldn’t help noticing how run-down the place was though. In the classroom I was based in for example there was only 1 light fitting that still worked, the ceiling fan was broken, the roof in the bathroom was full of holes and as it rained that day was unusable. The only classroom equipment was a broken cassette tape player with the door missing and a circa 1990’s computer which I am sure had little purpose.

In the afternoon a convoy of brand new, top of the range, 4x4 vehicles descended on the site. The local politicians had arrived for an impromptu photo shoot, to pretend to their constituents that the medical mission was their initiative. Suddenly it was clear where the budget for the school had gone. Low level politicians receive a minimal salary but, as Cardinal Tagle put it recently (at the Eucharistic Conference in Cebu), they often use the budget as their own ‘piggy bank’. Even the cost of one of these 4x4’s would be more than enough to cover the repairs needed by the school, fans and light bulbs, corrugated iron roofing and enough left to fill it with books and computers. As a friend pointed out, ‘the politician’s children don’t go to that school though’

It was a stark contrast for me to the see selfless service of the medical teams up close to the rank self-interest of the officials.
Here in the Philippines, So few, steal so much, from so many. 

Monday, 7 March 2016

The Machine Stops

I was waiting for the elevator (lift) one morning and when it arrived and I stepped inside it said ‘sorry for keeping you waiting’. I have come to doubt her sincerity..

It put me in mind of a short story I read years ago, written in the early 1900’s by E.M Forester called ‘The Machine stops’. Science fiction in its day but having re-read it, it sent a chill down my spine as I recognized so much of my own daily life in its pages.

It describes a world fully connected by ‘the machine’. People living in subterranean condominiums, communicate through a screen, take courses, talk instantly with anyone around the world, push a button to get food or other necessities, never go outside or have real human contact and simply recycle the same ideas over and over at the expense of original thought. It sounds familiar.

In the US it was reported that young-teens are checking their social networking sites (Facebook and twitter particularly) with smart phones up to 100 times per day. I got on a bus the other day and every occupant was glued to their smartphones, I could have walked in with a rocket launcher over my shoulder without being spotted, even the driver was checking his phone while another line of smart-phone zombies filed in behind me.

What we receive through these devices is often inaccurate or low quality information and yet people have a tendency to trust what they see on Facebook, it can be quite hard to discern fact from fiction. Pictures with mis-quotes are all the rage, quickly followed by a cat video and then a high resolution photo of somebody’s egg and chips; a stream of inaccuracy, bland entertainment and trivia. It’s a sort of junk food for the mind and we are feasting on it to the exclusion of a more nutritious diet.

 It’s worth assessing how much time we are using up (the supply is limited) with these devices as compared with say spending time with loved ones, time in prayer, in something socially useful or going off-line altogether and enjoying nature perhaps.

Our reliance (and addiction) to these very new technologies is already disturbing. We will need to be intentional and deliberate in disconnecting from them frequently in order to use them rather than be controlled by them.