Monday, 21 March 2011


Tantalizing! Frustrating! Exasperating! My efforts to thread a strand of wool through the eye of a needle. Many a kindly, pitying person would volunteer, "Why bother? Why waste your time? Let me do it for you."

Why can't people understand my major concern is not that I need a threaded needle. It means so much to me that I, with my poor vision, should prove to myself that I am still able to thread a needle. It may take time. Who cares? I don't! Believe me, the accomplishment, if ever, makes it worthwhile.

I'm rather like the infant who insists on being allowed to climb into a chair rather than have some well-meaning adult lift him up there. So far I haven't reverted to screaming if I don't get my own way! Truth is, it takes all my will-power not to do so! I quietly submit with inwardly fuming gratitude. Poor me! I've been denied my moment of triumph! The ecstasy of threading that needle -all by myself.

My ambitions are modest. They have to do with what was once possible and might still be. They include the striving to extend my capabilities. Others go further than this. At the 2012 Olympics they will seek to break records. But no one will aim to run a one-minute mile! That would be fantastic, unreal -as futile as chasing after a streak of lightning!

And yet it seems Jesus was being wantonly absurd when He compared the prospects of a rich man entering the Kingdom of Heaven to those of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. In other words, by using such an example He made it clear there was no way such a person could work his way through the Pearly Gates. Jesus was forcing His disciples, and now you and me, to ask what must be done to guarantee entry. Or is heaven the 'pie in the sky' that will never be eaten? The tantalizing, impossible dream?

Who's to blame the disciples for being astonished when they heard this and asked, "Who can be saved, then?" And that's the point! Jesus is enabling us to make a quantum leap into the supernatural ...way beyond the normal capacities that flow from within our human nature.
"Jesus gazed at them, 'By human resources,' He told them, 'this is impossible; for God everything is possible,'"
(Matt. 19. 25-6).

Jesus calls us, empowers us to live heroic lives with Christ-like compassion, which generously forgives those who have wronged us. He enables ordinary people like you and me to be willing to endure appalling torture, even suffering martyrdom, rather than deny and betray our commitment to Him.

'Gift, Favour, Privilege, Grace.' All these words describe the wonder of wonders that God should long for us to be willing to receive Him into our lives, and for us to allow ourselves to be drawn into His life, as His beloved children. All this is prompted by love that is merciful, "It is proof of God's own love for us that Christ died for us while we were still sinners," (Rom. 5. 8).

This isn't about our achievements, or our deserts. It's about God's choosing to enter into a sublime relationship with us that not one of us could ever have dreamed of, aspired to or attained, no matter how hard we worked for it.

This is godswaymyway, and I am at my greatest if I allow it to happen.
Peter O.P.

In a fortnight Isidore will reflect on "False Impressions."

Monday, 7 March 2011


"Someone give me a hand, please!" We've all made that appeal when we couldn't manage by ourselves. Perhaps we were a bit shaky on our feet and needed a supporting hand. That's true for me. Although I can still say Mass I now need other steadier people to distribute Holy Communion for me. Their helping hand is not only of practical assistance, enabling me to continue celebrating Mass; it also creates a bond between us. That's true whenever we ask for help or respond to someone else's appeal for assistance.

Perhaps, it comes as a surprise that, Jesus should cry out, "Someone give me a hand, please!" Surely He can't need any help from us! After all, He is Almighty God and can do all that He wants to do, without our assistance. And yet, throughout the ages He cries, "Someone give me a hand, please!"

Now that He's ascended to heaven He needs other people to continue His work, here on earth. Otherwise it won't get done. Almighty God has made himself dependent upon us, His creatures. He needs people to continue to express the love, care and compassion He showed while here on earth. It is to the glory of God that He makes so many of His creatures His fellow-workers. Together with Him we share in developing and perfecting His creation.

"And that's precisely what you do," I told a doctor friend. "As a doctor you continue and share in the work of Christ, the Good Physician. In the past, while here on earth, He performed miracles to cure people; now He uses your professional skills. Now He works through your healing hands. What is more, as you restore people's health you foreshadow the Coming of the Kingdom, when we will all be renewed in Christ. Then we will enjoy the fullness of life in our risen Lord." My doctor friend was glorious in being a co-healer with the Good Physician.

This insight came as an exciting revelation to my doctor friend. Building on his enthusiastic response, I explained that Christ, the healer, identified with the doctor, or nurse, in their caring for the sick. And as they continued the work of the Good Physician they could identify with Him. Not only priests should be called, "Other Christs," but so, too, all those through whom He continues to work. In you the sick meet Christ, the compassionate healer.

The same is true with all of us as we show love and concern for people in any kind of need -the lonely, who welcome company, the depressed who yearn for reassurance, the imprisoned who have made themselves into social rejects. As we come to them they meet the compassionate Christ, working in and through us. For each of us "Other Christs" I paraphrase the words of Pope St. Leo the Great, "Oh, Christian, realize -and remember -your dignity!"

As I turned these thoughts over in my mind I recalled St. Matthew's Gospel, ch. 25. There Jesus identifies, not with the giver, but the receiver -with those in any kind of need, "Truly, I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these, who are members of my family, you did it to me." They, too, are "Other Christs." This time it is Christ who is appealing to us for help. Through them He begs us, "Give me a hand, please!"

As we come to their assistance we meet Christ, who has identified with them. That should change our whole attitude to those whom we may find repulsive. Like the crucified Christ, they, too, may be despised and rejected. And it is remarkable how often carers say that they receive so much from responding to the needs of others. In giving we do, indeed, receive.

As I pulled these disparate reflections together I realized that there's a wonderful dialogue between Christ identifying with the giver and Christ identifying with the receiver -the doctor or carer on the one hand; the patient on the other. Christ identifies with each. Each meets Christ in the other. To each of them Leo the Great would say, "Oh, Christian, remember your own dignity; Oh, Christian, remember each other's dignity!"
Isidore O.P.

In a fortnight Fr. Peter will reflect on: "Tomorow will bring...?"