Friday, 9 November 2012


Those were glorious childhood days!  Each summer our parents would take us for a holiday at the seaside. There my brothers and I would process to the beach with our buckets and spades.  Naturally our eldest brother was Chief Architect and Clerk of the Works, as we set about building a magnificent sand castle.
With delicate precision one of us would gently shape the walls with his hands. Another of us would cut a channel to bring water from the sea to the moat, dug by another brother with his wooden spade. Once these tasks had been completed we would fill our buckets with damp sand, then turn them upside down to make the turrets. The ‘moment of grace’ came when we adorned our beautiful castle with shells and sea-weed. Construction completed, Union Jack hoisted on the largest central turret, and then, that special moment when the Master-builder, our eldest brother, would remove the sand dam from our channel. Imagine our delight and pride when the water rushed up the channel and surrounded the moat one of had dug. 
But, then as we stood back to admire our magnificent edifice, a large wave rushed in and swamped our beautiful castle.  What had taken hours to build was washed away in seconds.  What a shame; what a loss.  We were distraught.
But much later in life I reflected on other buildings -the much older, beautiful medieval cathedrals of England…far more substantial and vastly more worthwhile than our ‘play-time’ sand castles! These ancient places of worship were labours of love, expressions of deep faith and devotion. Skilled craftsmen constructed them. These were experts in carving stone and wood, and making stained glass. They devoted their skills to the glory of God.
No rush job for them!  They were prepared to take their time in producing the best they could. God, they thought, deserved only the best. A cathedral might well take decades to build. And over the centuries there would be additions and modifications.
But, horror of horrors, these masterpieces were as vulnerable as our childhood sand castle, destroyed by a not-so-giant wave. We only have to think of Coventry and Dresden cathedrals, bombed to ruins in the Second World War. Laboriously produced masterpieces were reduced to ruins in a matter of moments.  More recently, ancient monuments, thousands of years old, were shattered to pieces in the war on Iraq –the cradle of civilization.
How laborious and time-consuming it is to build; how easy and swift it is to destroy!  If that’s the case with buildings made with wood, stone and mortar, it’s much truer and more devastating with people, made of flesh and blood.  A single bullet can instantly put an end to a life; a vicious, perhaps careless, word can destroy a person’s reputation or self-confidence. These may have taken years to build up. In an instant they can be shattered.
Jesus came to restore and renew our lives shattered by sin.  He is the Good Physician who came to heal us people, who have been damaged, wounded, in so many ways.  He wants to give to us, restore to us, the fullness of life.
Certainly I meet Jesus by recognizing my need of Him, and then by turning to Him for the balm of His healing mercy. But He has also called you and me to work with Him in building people up, when they’ve been brought low. 
Though a devastating word may give us a great sense of power and satisfaction, being demolition experts has no part in our Christian vocation. We have been called to be re-construction workers, restorers of God’s damaged masterpieces. 
In such casualties I meet the wounded Christ.  With love and care, and above all with the grace of God, our task is it to build people up, not tear them down.  Thus St. Paul writes in his 2nd Letter to the Corinthians, “Everything we do, beloved, is for the sake of building you up,” (2 Cor. 12. 19).  That is especially true when we have to correct someone, as Paul again says, “So I write these things while I am away from you, so that when I come, I may not have to be severe in using the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down. (2 Corinthians 13.10).
Isidore O.P. 

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