Friday, 15 April 2011


After a long struggle we boy scouts gained a high ridge. On each side we looked down upon a valley, a lake and upon people, who seemed to us to be as small as grasshoppers, (cf. Num. 13.13). What a sense of freedom -for once not to be gazing at massive city buildings, not to be trapped in a car creeping its way along jam-packed roads. The joy of breathing unpolluted air! Below were sheep grazing; above, circling birds of prey. For me, a townie, this was sheer heaven.

And now, in a small Caribbean island, whenever I see a chicken hawk on high, detached from this world's troubles, supported and floating on the currents of air, having a bird's eye view on life, I ponder on how significant to us are such panoramic views. What are they saying to us?

I have been greatly moved by the reported impressions of astronauts gazing from 'way out' upon earth, upon our world, our beautiful, so serene, so remote. What is truth? Where is it to be found? Is it for us terrestrials, from the peak of Mount Everest? Or from the top floor of a 'high rise building?' And, in Biblical terms, on Mt. Sinai? Or on Mt. Tabor? Or is truth, the 'real world,' to be found at ground-level in the crowded homes with paint flaking off the walls, and on the crowded terraces of a football ground?

Quite honestly, I can't answer any of these questions. To me they offer false alternatives. There is no answer to Pilate's question to Jesus, "What is truth?" Apart from what Jesus claimed for Himself on another occasion,

"I am the Way, the Truth, the Life."

The resolution of this circling around, looking for answers, comes from Jesus Himself when He told Pilate,

"I was born for this, I came into the world for this, to bear witness to the truth; and all who are on the side of truth listen to my voice," ( Jn. 18. 3).

But I still ask myself, "What is this truth?" and, "Where is this truth that Jesus claimed to be -the truth to which He came to bear witness?" Is it in the stable outside Bethlehem? On the shore of the Lake of Galilee? On Calvary -nailed to a cross? In the appearances to His friends after His resurrection? Or, ultimately, in glory at the Right Hand of His Father?

In fact, the truth that is Jesus is located in every moment, every phrase and every episode of at an overarching mystery,

"The Word became flesh, He lived among us, and we saw His glory, the glory that He has from the Father as only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth,"

(Jn. 1. 14).

Indeed, there were two starkly contrasting 'high moments' when Jesus demonstrated the truth about Himself.

The first 'high moment' was the prelude to His ministry,

"Taking Him to a very high mountain, the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour. And he said to Him, 'I will give you all these, if you fall at my feet and do me homage.' Then Jesus replied, 'Away with you, Satan!' For Scripture says, The Lord your God is the one to whom you must do homage, Him alone must you serve,'" (Matt. 4. 8).

Here Jesus was being true to Himself through being submissive to the will of His Father, rather than to that of the tempter.

The other 'high moment' came at the conclusion and climax of His life,

"Now sentence is being passed on this world; now the prince of this world is to be driven out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I shall draw all people to myself," (Jn. 12.31).

Here Jesus was being true to Himself in that He attracted people to Himself by the sacrificial love embodied in His crucified body, rather than by offering us wealth and power.

These questions will always be important to me -more so, the answers -but especially during that slice of the Liturgical Year which is Lent, leading through to Paschal-tide.

Reality is seen both from aloft with a bird's-eye view -Jesus looking down from the cross, and, from a worm's perspective in the dust of the earth -our looking up to Him on the cross.

And mywaygodsway of recognizing and appreciating my heavenly Father is to be in and through His Son, Jesus -crucified, risen, glorious, in every word that he uttered, and in every happening of His Life in His High moments, and in His Low moments.

Peter O.P.

In a fortnight's time Isidore will reflect on how removing labels can help us to meet God.

Monday, 4 April 2011


It was a glorious spring afternoon. The sun was shining, the daffodils were flowering; the trees were beginning to burst into fresh leaves. Nature was waking up after a bleak, death-like winter. Responding to nature's joyful re-birth I sallied forth with my digital camera along a beautiful avenue, which runs past our priory. I delighted in the interesting patterns of shadows formed by the bright sunlight, as well as the fresh colours of the spring flowers. There were also people strolling along the avenue or sitting on benches. Here, I thought, was great scope for a variety of interesting pictures.

When I down-loaded my pictures into my computer I was pleased with the results. And I thought Peter, in the W. Indies, would welcome sights of an English spring. But then to my surprise, to my horror, I saw a dead rat in the foreground of my picture of forsythia. Can't you see it's all too familiar grey body and thin long tail? How did it get there? How could I have missed that despised rodent, hunted down as a pest? A pest that gets everywhere, even into my picture of a beautiful flower. Is there no limit to its intrusions? Would it ruin my picture, or could I crop it out? I needed to take a closer look. So I decided to zoom in on the rat.

As I examined the grey-brown detail of my picture (R) it looked less and less like the despised rat. Suddenly it dawned on me. It's not a rat. It's a dead leaf! I must confess the stalk does look like a rat's tail, but the veins on the leaf are the give-away. When I told Peter about my confusion he burst into fits of laughter. "There must be a blog there," he said excitedly. "I don't know where it will take you, but do it!"

Now there's a challenge. How could my confusing a dead leaf with a dead rat help me meet God. I ask you, "What would you do?" As I pondered a passage in Mark's Gospel came to mind.

Some people asked Jesus to cure a blind man. When He touched the man's eyes they were only gradually cured. At first he said,

'I can see people, but they look trees walking.' Then Jesus laid His hands on His eyes again; and he looked intently and his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly," (Mk. 8. 24-25).

At first the man was confused; he'd misinterpreted what he saw. He knew trees shouldn't be walking. But gradually Jesus brought his eyes into focus and he could correctly distinguish men from trees.

For Mark's Gospel this episode was crucial. From this point onwards Jesus tried to explain to His disciples that the Christ must suffer and die, but would rise from the grave. That was not what they expected or wanted of the promised Messiah, whom Peter had just correctly identified! Peter wanted to protect Jesus from such a fate. Peter wanted Jesus to be a triumphant leader. Suffering and death played no part in Peter's expectations for Jesus and His followers. Triumph and glory in Christ's kingdom -that's what Peter wanted for all of them. Despite His repeated efforts Jesus could not remove this false impression of His Messianic mission. Although He succeeded in eventually getting the blind man's eyes into correct focus, He sadly failed with His closest followers.

What about me? Am I as confused about Jesus' identity as I was when I mistook a dead leaf for a dead rat? Am I prepared to put aside my first impressions, my prejudices -to listen, to look and to learn? Am I willing to allow Jesus to touch the eyes of my mind; to touch and change my life? Am I prepared to disregard my own pre-conceptions and accept Jesus on His own terms?

If I'm to meet Jesus, especially during Lent, I must accept Him as the Suffering, but triumphant, Servant of the Lord. If I'm to meet Him I must travel with Him on the Way of the Cross which is the only path for me to follow, which alone can lead to my sharing in the glory of His resurrection.

Life is truly amazing! It's crazy and wonderful how God can find ways to touch our imaginations and hearts! A seemingly straight-forward picture causes me great confusion and then amusement. More than that, I can find in it the key elements of the mystery of salvation -the mystery of death followed by new life. The dead leaf represents the crucified Christ. If I could be so easily confused over a dead leaf, I'm reminded that Jesus was so completely misunderstood that the saviour of the world was despised and rejected. But then my picture is dominated by the birth of new life, represented by the flowering forsythia -a lovely image of the risen Lord. I am to meet the mystery of the crucified and risen Christ, crazily represented by a dead leaf and a flowering plant.

Isidore O.P.

In fortnight Peter will reflect on meeting God