Tag Archive: Lent


Mercy & the Adulteress

Now I have decided to revive my blog – I’ve been asked by the students here in Manchester to put some of my homilies online – This was one from 5th week of Lent 

mercifulTodays Gospel is a gem that is given to us to as something to savour in Lent.  The woman caught in adultery is a masterpiece in Johns Gospel that displays mystery of God’s mercy against the backdrop of the corruption of the temple.  Mercy is the most amazing attribute of God – Mercy is the name of God himself – it is the face by which God reveals himself in the Old Testament and it is at the core of the Gospel message. Pope Francis believes we are in a special time – a Kairos – of God’s mercy – and so has dedicated this as a special year. So in this extraordinary year of mercy its worth meditating this week on this key story of Jesus’s Mercy –  Jesus who is the incarnation of God’s redemptive and creative love .

Today’s Gospel is about the women who is caught in adultery but really about  the scribes and the Pharisees who are caught in hypocrisy…..  The women has been caught in the act of adultery – lets pause for a moment and think about what that actually means – this must have been a trap – they have been waiting and carefully looking – they have suspected this is going to happen and rather than trying to stop it they have allowed it to happen so that they could ‘catch her’ – what about the man involved?  Why is he not pulled out to be judged too? It all seems a bit one-sided.   This is being done to attack and humiliate the woman … notice how they drag her out make her stand in the middle of the crowd – this is humiliating.

Using Moses law in this way –  to humiliate her and judge her – is already an abuse of God’s Law – which is meant to free us not trap us.    However the scribes and the Pharisees here are trying to use the law to hurt her and also to trap Jesus … They realise that when they ask him what to do they are boxing him in  –  if Jesus says ‘let her go’ then they can criticise him saying  ‘ he doesn’t love the law’ if he says  stone her – they can say look how cruel and rigid he is….    It seems that Jesus can’t win.

However this allows Jesus to show the wisdom of Solomon – to demonstrate to the people that he hwoman_9as the wisdom    and compassion of a Just King – that he is fulfilling the messianic longing and expectation that they have.  Look at what he does – crouching and writing in the dust – we don’t know what he is writing…  but it may be significant that he is writing in the dust.  We remember that tradition has is that the Law of Moses was written in stone – but the Psalmists and the Prophets talk about writing the law of God on our hearts – We remember Jesus words at another point in the Gospels : The law was made man not man for the Law – so that his desire is that we embody the law through how we live – how we love and most importantly how we forgive…. Not using its rigidity to hurt and stone each other with.  Also lets remember we are in Lent and cast our minds back to how we began  – on Ash Weds – from dust you came and to dust you will return…..  so by writing in the dust Jesus is reminding us that our life is temporary, but how we act now is what will be looked at in the final reckoning – and our judgments always need to be  made in that context.

Notice that Jesus is not relativising adultery – it is a sin that has grave consequences – it can rip families apart, betraying the ones we love the most – causing generations of pain and hurt.  However Jesus is displaying great wisdom here – not being trapped – but reflecting God’s infinite mercy.

The desire to humiliate dressed up as a desire for justice – in the Pharisees and the Scribes is all too human – and do we know it.  Just look at the re-emergence of the phenomenon of public shaming on the internet …..  but in the face of this human small mindedness  – the mercy that Jesus shows is divine…. And we are called to share in the work of God and become more merciful.

What stops us from being merciful is when we refuse to be honest about our own sinfulness, we don’t encounter the mercy of God anymore, our hearts become hard and we become corrupt.  It is when we are aware of our own sinfulness – and even more that God loves us – that we can become merciful to others.  It’s something we need to practice – the more we face up to our sinfulness and brokenness, the more we can experience Gods loving mercy, especially in confession and the more we can forgive and be merciful – it is a virtuous circle.  But as we know it so easy to focus on other people’s sins – it’s a form of displacement – so that we feel better about ourselves – especially when we gossip – and we become desensitized and forgot that experience of Gods mercy and that’s when we become corrupt

If we are honest – a lot of us can become like the elder son in the Parable of the Prodigal Son –  who complains in the face of the fathers joy and generosity.  The elder son is human – but the mercy of the Father is divine. God goes beyond justice to a higher event which leads to a healing encounter with his love and mercy.  Let us be honest this lent about our need for God’s mercy – remember we have confessions every day from 12- 1.00….

Pancakes & #Ashtags

AMDG

IMG_4420Its been a busy couple of days at the Manchester Chaplaincy. Traditionally we sell pancakes to fund the excellent work that our student SVP group do, particularly with the poor homeless (4 soup runs a week) and the breakfast club that they fund and run in Moss Side which ensures that the kids start the school day with a full stomach. Foolishly I challenged them to beat the record of 300 pancakes – with a meal on me promised as the prize …..  they sold 600 pancakes this year.  A great effort and busy day at the chaplaincy – we reckon with the foodbank open in the morning we possibly had close to 800 coming in and out of the building in one day …which is probably a record!

1503833_10152641314431048_3035044841266490689_nNext day, Ash Weds, it  was the church’s turn to be full – with 400 at each mass.  as well as welcoming all who came – I challenged the irregular mass-goers to make it a regular habit during Lent.  I also asked them to do something I never thought I would find myself doing …..  to take a ‘selfie’ of them wearing there ashes with pride…. and to post them on Twitter / Facebook / Instagram etc….  as a way of witnessing.  We even had #ashtag trending, albeit it briefly, in Manchester…. here is our collage below.  Sorry for all those we have left out ……

 

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And one of my favourite Tweets!

AMDG

Doing the Parish Rounds will never quite seem the same again...

One of my abiding memories of my time in Culion was staying overnight with a family in the remote village of TabukTabuk.  On the west of the island many of the villages are populated by subsistence fishermen, taking their sustenance from the West Philippine Sea – or is the South China Sea…….. and therein lies a tale.  As I was enjoying fresh coconut milk, and squinting at the waves breaking on a distant reef, it was difficult to imagine that this stretch of water is tipped by some to be the possible starting point of the next global war.  How could this tropical bliss become a hellish theater of war?   The nagging thought only got stronger later in the day when on the way back to the Jesuit Community the boatman kindly detoured at my request.  I spent an amazing 30 minutes snorkeling and feeding a beautiful array of fish on a reef that was rich was life. The nagging thought came because this was an artificial reef created by a Japanese War Ship.

There are many wrecks in the seas around Culion from the Second World War — and ‘wreck diving’ has become a popular tourist attraction.  I suppose the nagging thought was also partly due to my working my way through HBO’s ‘Pacific’ the last couple of weeks which brilliantly portrays the intensity & brutality of the Pacific War.  It seemed the best place to watch it with the added impetus that my grandfather was awarded the Burma Star for fighting in the campaign – something he would never talk about, obviously too painful an experience to tell his wide-eyed grandsons but it was clear that he had bitter memories of the Japanese. and would get angry when he saw Japanese cars on the streets of Liverpool.

The South China Sea

Image via Wikipedia

But surely that is all in the past – and these islands have returned to a tropical bliss…. right?  Well it would be foolish to be too complacent. This sea appears to be one of the more disputed ‘territories’ on the planet and it is the rise of China that is getting everyone jittery.  In January the Philippines announced that it wants to “maximise” its mutual defence treaty with the United States, with more joint exercises, and more American soldiers rotating through. Reinforcing Obama’s ‘pivot’ to the Pacific – the reaction in the Chinese press was shrill calling for sanctions against the Philippines. In December Beijing had ignored Manila’s protest about the incursion of three Chinese vessels in what it calls the “West Philippine Sea”.  An old Jesuit told me that these spats were quite common.

But complacency is not in order here – according to the Economist the stakes are high, because of the enormous economic significance of this disputed sea. It accounts for as much as one-tenth of the fishing catch landed globally; around half the tonnage of intercontinental trade in commercial goods passes through; and a potential treasure chest of hydrocarbons (oil and gas) that China, anxious about the vulnerability of its own supplies, sees as its own (Banyan Feb 4th). With both the Philippines and Vietnam intending to start extracting oil things might more from diplomacy to harassment.  So the chances are that America, with its mighty navy and abiding interest in the freedom of navigation and commerce, and China which its rapidly developing its Navy – recently floating a refurbished Russian aircraft carrier and soon to finish building its first.

Will the waters of the South China (West Philippine Sea) lead to a maritime cold war? Or more aptly a clammy war? Or – God forbid – something worse.  Who knows? …. but it is certainly a sobering thought for Lent.  The potential for man to destroy his paradise.  I suppose that the wisdom of Lent is to remember our fragility and our mortality – if only more people took Lenten renewal more seriously.

Maybe I’ll be less gloomy by the time we get to Easter  🙂

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P.S.  This news came on line 12hrs after I finished the blog entry :

China hits out at ‘troublemaker’ Manila in maritime row  :  BBC News Click Here 

 

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