Reflection for Sunday 19th November 2017

Psalm 79

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

…8 Do not remember against us our former iniquities;[a]
let your compassion come speedily to meet us,
for we are brought very low.
9 Help us, O God of our salvation,
for the glory of your name;
deliver us, and atone for our sins,
for your name’s sake!…

The Psalms are cries of the human heart which God occupies and fills. The Psalms are human words breathed by the Holy Spirit from the hearts of people in times of joy, bewilderment, despair and reformation. They are cries to remember God’s blessing and to build. They are cries of anguish and horror at the evil that has befallen the people of God. They speak of repentance and renewal and a God who does not give up on a wayward people. Their truth is found in the event of the cross. Each prefigures the life and death of Christ, the cry of abandonment on the cross and the pouring out of the love of the Father for the Son in the Spirit and our adoption as children of God. Sin is dealt with as is guilt and condemnation.

We pray to the Father through the Son in the power of the Spirit. We pray to the One God revealed through the cross in the complexity, suffering and messy reality of our lives. The moment of prayer takes our lives to the cross where our lives are transformed by the one who loves us and died for us. We are empowered by the revelation of God as Father; we discover our inheritance as sons and daughters of the living God. The thunder from heaven reveals the God of the burning bush; the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; the God who made all things, to be to be the Father of Jesus. The cry of the heart of the Psalmists is to the One God we know as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, because of what happened on the cross.

Through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus we learn that God’s people are the humble; those who hunger and thirst for justice and peace and those who are poor in spirit. We learn that it is at the margins, in the corners of society, where people are attacked on every side, that God is present. The poor are forgotten and the meek despised. The good are cast out.

Those who live by violence, the arrogant and the proud, seemingly have an easy victory as the people of God are left for dead. Does God not care for the weak and vulnerable scattered on the battle fields of man’s folly and greed? Are the poor and dispossessed fit only to be forgotten? Is the rule of God a fantastic dream, a laughable delusion? Why does God not get more involved? Surely God is angry and will pour out his anger!

Where do we place ourselves in this equation of evil and punishment? Are the enemies of God those others who are “not us”? Are we truly free of blame? Are we bound in complicity? Do we personify evil in the “them” and forget that our enemy is not flesh and blood?

We need to know God as the God of compassion. Forgive us Father for what we have done and what we have failed to do. Lord have mercy. Jesus Son of God have mercy on us. Father, do not remember our sins, our debts and our trespasses. Atone for us Lord God- wash us clean and deal with the groaning of our hearts. Make real the cries of our hearts. Make real the praise of our lips! This is not driven by guilt but by love.

At each moment God has a plan for our salvation. In each decision, he is there. The cross is the event of our release from sin, guilt and condemnation now and forever. Faith frees us to believe, even in the depths of our sense of separation as well as  in the intimacy of a breath, that we are loved and called to live a life of blessing.

2 Corinthians 4:8-10

English Standard Version Anglicised (ESVUK)

8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies.

Veronica Zundel, whose Mennonite church in North London had to close, reflects on her experience of losing a precious gathering and the pain of its loss. She says,

It is not our sufferings that are a ‘bad witness’ to the world. It is when we quarrel, when we lack compassion, when we demonise people who are different from us, or when we fail to practice ‘good disagreement’, that people may justifiably ask, ‘Where is their God?’

(BRF: New Daylight, Autumn 20017)

Pádraig Ó Tuama is a poet and leader of the Corrymeela Community, a peace and reconciliation community in Ireland. He wrote the following poem as gift to his friend.

Jesus of the Corners
a Collect for Jim
Luke 7: 44: “Then turning towards
the woman he said to Simon,
‘Do you see this woman?’ ”

Jesus of the corners.
You saw all:
those at the centre
and those at the edge.

Guide us into all the corners
of our wide world.

Because when you went into rooms,
you found life and love
in the stories that others
ignored.

Amen.

This poem was written for Fr. James Martin, SJ and can be found at https://twitter.com/JamesMartinSJ/status/931341396132364289

 

 

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