Monday, 30 January 2012

St Brigid and Beer!

There are many stories about Saint Brigid whose feast day we celebrate today, 1st February, stories about her love of God, her wisdom, and her compassion. There are also a few about her and beer! 

In one she worked in a leper colony, which found itself without beer. Centuries ago beer was the daily drink of the people, both because water near villages and towns was often polluted and because it was cheap nourishment. So “when the lepers she nursed implored her for beer, and there was none to be had, she changed the water, which was used for the bath, into an excellent beer, by the sheer strength of her blessing and dealt it out to the thirsty in plenty.”

In another she is said to have changed her dirty bathwater into beer so that visiting clerics would have something to drink. She is also reputed to have supplied beer out of one barrel to eighteen churches, which lasted from Holy Thursday to the end of Easter.

There is a 10th century poem, attributed to Brigid herself, that speaks of giving "a lake of beer to God." This wonderful poem has a Franciscan feel to it - with both its earthy, human quality and delight in God.

I'd like to give a lake of beer to God.
I'd love the heavenly
Host to be tippling there
For all eternity.

I'd love the men of Heaven to live with me,
To dance and sing.
If they wanted, I'd put at their disposal
Vats of suffering.

White cups of love I'd give them
With a heart and a half;
Sweet pitchers of mercy I'd offer
To every man.

I'd make Heaven a cheerful spot
Because the happy heart is true.
I'd make the men contented for their own sake.
I'd like Jesus to love me too.

I'd like the people of heaven to gather
From all the parishes around.
I'd give a special welcome to the women,
The three Marys of great renown.

I'd sit with the men, the women and God
There by the lake of beer.
We'd be drinking good health forever
And every drop would be a prayer.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

No Running from our Brokenness

In his very first homily as Pope, Benedict XVI said: “The Pope must be conscious of being a frail and weak man, since his strength is frail and weak, constantly needing purification and conversion.” 

Just as well for him and for us! If the Pope was perfect he would not need the mercy of Christ; if he had no sins and failings he would have nothing to say to us who are frail and struggling.

The great spiritual guides, past and present, tell us:  do not run from your brokenness, do not flee the tensions and paradoxes of your life; do not hide the imperfections from yourself or God. 

True healing comes, not from redefining the goal to allow us to declare ourselves perfect, but from a compassionate, grace-filled vision of life in which our weaknesses can be lived with even as we seek to grow and deepen.  

Not to need God and his compassion and grace because of our imagined perfection would be the worst of fates.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Living in Christ

Do you know that in the New Testament the phrase “in Christ” is repeated 164 times? We are “in Christ.” What does that mean? By the indwelling Spirit we are united by a real enduring bond with Jesus, we are one with the Risen Lord, we live now in Christ. Our baptismal oneness with the Lord has glorious consequences. 

If we only understood the gift of God, our dignity as God’s sons and daughters, the sublime presence of the Spirit that is already ours!

For example, what of the truth that, because of our baptism, the Spirit of the Lord prays within us, indeed is prayer within us.

Though we might not know God’s will in a given situation – Christ’s Spirit within us surely does.    Though we might feel powerless in our prayers – Christ’s Spirit within us does not. Though we might feel lacking in trust in God’s love – Christ’s Spirit within us does not. Though we might feel exhausted and confused – Christ’s Spirit within us does not.

But this God-given reality that is ours is not just for communion in prayer but also for partnership in mission. The same Spirit of God that filled Jesus has been given to us, and has made us one with the Lord.

-    So those we serve, Christ serves.
-    Those we forgive, Christ forgives.
-    Those we comfort, Christ comforts.
-    Those we lift up in working for justice, Christ lifts up.
-    Those we pray for, Christ prays for.

The core of our Christian living is simple: Live the grace of your Baptism. Live under the guidance and influence of the Spirit. Live in the Spirit. 

Allow the Lord’s love have its way with you. And then let that love flow out to others.

Friday, 6 January 2012

God Enfleshed!

"Christian revelation is always pointed, concrete, and specific. Our word for that is 'incarnational' or enfleshed.  Walter Brueggemann calls it brilliantly 'the scandal of the particular.'

Christianity is not a Platonic world of ideas and theories about which you can be right or wrong, or observe from a distance. Incarnation is not something you measure or critique or analyze, but Someone you meet!  This pattern reaches its fullness in the enfleshment of the Divine in one ordinary-looking man named Jesus. 

We dare to believe that God materialised in human form, so we could fall in love with a real person, which is the only way we fall in love. It is almost impossible to give your life warmly for an idea, a force, an energy, or a concept.  

We are programmed to give our lives away to other persons."  (Richard Rohr, OFM)

Monday, 2 January 2012

St Francis and ''Babe of Bethlehem"

St Francis at Greccio
Pope Benedict gave over much of his homily at Christmas Midnight Mass to a beautiful reflection on the St Francis' "first crib" at Greccio.

"Christmas is an epiphany – the appearing of God and of his great light in a child that is born for us. Born in a stable in Bethlehem, not in the palaces of kings. In 1223, when Saint Francis of Assisi celebrated Christmas in Greccio with an ox and an ass and a manger full of hay, a new dimension of the mystery of Christmas came to light. Saint Francis of Assisi called Christmas “the feast of feasts” – above all other feasts – and he celebrated it with “unutterable devotion” (2 Celano 199). He kissed images of the Christ-child with great devotion and he stammered tender words such as children say, so Friar Thomas of Celano tells us. 

Francis discovered Jesus’ humanity in an entirely new depth. This human existence of God became most visible to him at the moment when God’s Son, born of the Virgin Mary, was wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger. For God’s Son to take the form of a child, a truly human child, made a profound impression on the heart of the Saint of Assisi, transforming faith into love. 'The kindness and love of God our Saviour for mankind were revealed' – this phrase of Saint Paul now acquired an entirely new depth. In the child born in the stable at Bethlehem, we can as it were touch and caress God.

This has nothing to do with sentimentality. It is right here, in this new experience of the reality of Jesus’ humanity that the great mystery of faith is revealed. Francis loved the child Jesus, because for him it was in this childish estate that God’s humility shone forth. God became poor. His Son was born in the poverty of the stable. In the child Jesus, God made himself dependent, in need of human love, he put himself in the position of asking for human love – our love. Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God’s humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity. Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light."