Services during Holy Week

Palm Sunday of Our Lord’s Passion

Sunday 13 April

Procession and Mass 4:00pm
Mass starts in the hall

Maundy Thursday

Thursday 17 April

Solemn Evening Mass of the Lord’s Supper 7:00pm

Good Friday

Friday 18 April

Solemn Liturgy of the Day 3:00pm
Seven Last Words 7: It is finished

During the Sacred Triduum members of all the communities at St Agnes celebrate together.

Members of the Ordinariate community will be attending the Chrism Mass at Our Lady of the Assumption & St Gregory, Warwick Street, on Monday 14 April.

Services on Easter Day

Easter Day

Saturday 19 April

Vigil Liturgy and First Mass of Easter 8:00pm

Sunday 20 April

Mass of the Day 11:15am

During the Sacred Triduum members of all the communities at St Agnes celebrate together. There’s also a Mass in Polish on Easter Day at 1:00pm.

The Seven Last Words 4: “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

My God, my God, Why have you forsaken me?

This isn’t the last words uttered by Jesus from the cross but they are the most terrible. We have see in the first three saying something emerging. The first words speaks about forgiveness, the second about salvation and the joy of Paradise and the third about the birth of a community whose central figures are Mary and the Apostles. Now we encounter this cry of utter dereliction coming from the mouth of Jesus.

If we were ever tempted by a naive gnosticism to think that Jesus would be somehow protected from the full weight of human suffering by his divinity, then this cry of dereliction denies us that illusion. This is the narrow way of discipleship to salvation that we are invited to take. We are required, although we would rather not listen and look and long to hurry on by, to dwell here a while and enter into the mystery of this desolation. Basil Hume said, ”How he who was God could experience such pain, know such abandonment, such emptiness, we do not know. We can only ponder upon the fact in silent prayer.” What we seem to be witnessing is that even this experience of desolation, at the absence of God, is somehow brought into the life of God.

Jesus is quoting from psalm 22 when he utters this cry, making its words his own. These words of anguish, pain and loneliness fit into a spiritual tradition reflected in the sufferings of Job, psalm 44, Jeremiah, and the suffering servant within the oracles of Isaiah. They are not words that doubt God’s existence and are more than the absence of a loved one. They are words of desolation that reflect what Timothy Radcliffe says is “the collapse of all meaning as if the centre of one’s life has been sucked out and one is left hanging over a void of darkness.” It is a darkness that no light seems to penetrate.

St Paul tell us that our mind should be that of Christ’s, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality something to be grasped, but made himself nothing …. and became obedient to death – even death on a cross!” In this cry of dereliction we begin to glimpse something of what it cost Jesus to become nothing and be obedient until death. St Paul tells us we need to embrace this way of loving obedience where ever it might lead. Our journey’s are all different but the one stopping off place we can all guarantee is Calvary and at Calvary we will have to face moments when the question, ‘why?’ seems to make no sense.

Primo Levi, an Italian Jew, who was in Auschwitz, recounts how one day he was raging with thirst. He saw a beautiful icicle and as he was reaching up for it was stopped by a guard. He asked “why?” the guard replied, “Here there is no Why?” Elie Wiesel recounts another story from the same meaningless suffering of Auschwitz – the hanging of three, two men and a young boy. The boy was chosen because he was liked by many in the camp. The rest of the prisoners were forced to watch. Someone asked after the particular long slow death of the boy, “Where is your God now?” Wiesel answered, “Where is He? He is – He is hanging here on the gallows”.

Pray God, that we will not have to face suffering and desolation like those in the Holocaust, Rwanda, the Central African Republic, Iraq or Syria. However, there may have been or will be moments when we feared that we would be swallowed by the void, where our lives seem to be without sense and meaning, because God seems to be absent – gone. Words will often fail us and bring little comfort. Cardinal Hume again: “There are no tidy rational answers to the crushing burden of suffering. we cannot work out easy answers about why it should be. God gave us not an answer but a way to find the answer. It is the cross that will reveal it, but it has to be a personal discovery. You cannot begin to see the pattern and purpose unless you have known the cross and in the darkness let Jesus lead you from despair to hope”.

In the light of the Cross we have to give up all romantic notions of ‘suffering for Christ’. The brutal reality of sin is revealed. Evil seeks to reduce all that is full of meaning and beautify into nothing but complete despair. Our own desolations are real and come to us via the hands of others, circumstances out of our control or at our own hands out of fear, doubt, feelings of inadequacies and acts of self loathing. Whatever the source, the cry of dereliction is real and a common human experience.

Jesus in his love and obedience to his Father and his redeeming love for humanity has carried the presence of God into the darkest void of human experience of alienation, loneliness and despair so that there is no-where where God cannot be found. The cry of dereliction is not banished or done away with and is an authentic experience of the disciples of Christ as we are called to take up or cross and follow him, but it need no-longer be the last word of our human experience, as it is not Jesus’ last word.

24 hours for the Lord: 28–29 March

St Agnes’ Church will be open for a vigil before the Blessed Sacrament, with the opportunity for the Sacrament of Reconciliation, for a time from Friday 28 March to Saturday 29 March.

This is in response to the Holy Father’s request to establish a tradition, published through the Pontifical Council for Promoting the New Evangelisation. At St Agnes, there is already a happy tradition of an all-night vigil at around this time in Lent, and this can be aligned with Pope Francis’ request.

The event will start at 8pm on Friday with Exposition and continue through the night until Mass at 6am. There will be readings on the hour, and confessions will be heard from 8pm on Friday and after Mass on Saturday morning. The Vigil Mass for Sunday will be celebrated at 5:00pm on Saturday, and again confessions will be heard from 4:15pm.

While the official English version of the Council’s website in Italian is awaited, please use the Google translation.

If you are using Google Chrome, the Italian site can be translated into English fairly well by the browser.

The Seven Last Words 3: “Behold your Mother.”

When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple he loved standing near, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!”

In Jesus’ words we are drawn to focus on the wider scene of his crucifixion. What we glimpse is not an unfamiliar scene of distort family and friends looking on helpless in the suffering of a loved one via the action of unjust men in a brutal and unjust world.

Continually written on the consciousnesses of the people of God was the imperative to act justly themselves and care for the most vulnerable in society. The vulnerable were denoted by the often repeated phrase, the alien, widow and orphan. Mary was a widow and now her only son was dying before her on the cross – her position would be precarious and utter poverty a likelihood if she is not provided for somehow. Jesus looks to John his most beloved disciple and asks him to care for her as if she were his own mother.

This alone is a powerful scene that teaches us about what it means to honour our mother and father in the light of the ten commandments and to recognise the need to always be mindful of the most vulnerable in our society. We also know that John took this request seriously. Today it is possible to visit what is thought to be Mary’s house in Ephesus and Ephesus was the epicentre of the Johannine Christian community. It was from the midst of this community that the Gospel of John emerges. John’s memory of this scene, like any who have experienced such trauma, would have been imprinted on his mind and Jesus’ words as clear as when they were first spoken.

Mary herself, who pondered these things in her heart, would now understand only to clearly those words of prophesy from old Simeon, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and a sign that is spoken against, and a sword will pierce your own soul also..” Every mother has a special bond with the child that they carry in their womb and can identify and feel every joy and sorrow of the child they bore as if it were their own.

We like Mary must ponder these words of Jesus and begin to see that there is a prophetic edge to them – they are revealing to us something more than just a son’s care for his mother. At this deepest darkest hour of despair, when virtually all have abandoned Jesus all that he worked for seems lost, the seed of something new begins to take form. A new community, a new people are forged into being at the foot of the cross. It’s life blood will be the sacraments, the water and blood that flow from the side of Christ, and its essential key figures at it’s heart are Mary and the apostles represented by John.

The implications of Mary’s ‘Yes’ to God takes on another dimension. Not only is she Mother of the incarnate God but will become mother of all as the new Eve in the new creation – the new Israel. Without lessing the pain of loss, maybe a glimmer of understanding flickers at the back of Mary’s mind. Certainly this will later be reflected in John’s gospel that this moment of despair was in reality the moment of strange glory. The lifting up of Jesus on the cross is his triumph and lifting up to glory. Fallen creation has had its finally judgement and will come forth as the communion of saints. The last word in no longer humanities deepest suffering or his death because God in Christ has entered there and his love has triumphed breaking forth into the new creation.

The new creation is the Church and Mary is the mother of the body of Christ and becomes our spiritual mother when we enter the life of Christ through our baptism. Mary was able to become the Mother of God and the new Eve because of her immaculate conception. Not that she herself was a virgin birth but that by God’s grace she was free from the consequences of original sin and thus made ready to be the tabernacle of God and be the source of uncorrupt humanity for the incarnation. Therefore she is first in the kingdom of God and its greatest disciple and will later be entitled queen of heaven.

Mary is due the greatest of honour but let us not fall into a naive piety, that in the light of the great dogmas of her immaculate conception and assumption, view her as being exempt from the pain of childbirth (although she does maintain her perpetual virginity), weariness, doubt, temptation, ignorance or even death (although she suffers no bodily corruption). This misdirected piety inadvertently puts Mary above her son and must be tempered in the light of the cross. Jesus is God incarnate and was tempted, tired, angry, hungry, grew weary, wept and died an unspeakably horrible death. No disciple is greater than their master and it is Mary as the greatest of disciples of her son Jesus that leads her to this place of utter desolation.

Mary shows us the way of discipleship. St Paul encourages us, in his letter to the Philippians, to ‘have the mind of Christ’ and empty ourselves. Mary has already embraced this way. The greek word used to denote this self emptying is kenosis which carries the meaning of surrendering all that is most dear to us, and for Mary, it was the surrender of her dearest. From the moment of her “Let it be unto me according to your word.” Mary has journeyed the way of surrender. Indeed Mary’s last recorded words in the gospel are from the wedding in Cana and carry this theme of surrender. Her words to the servants “Do whatever he tells you.” Continue to be her words of advice to all who wish to follow her son.

Here at the foot of the cross we become aware that Mary had to surrender all her motherly instinct and desire to protect and prevent her beloved son from this way of the cross. Jesus responded to Peter’s attempt to prevent him from this way with the sharp rebuke, “Get behind me Satan! You do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men.” The cross is his way and if it is his way then it is our way as well. The Cross is the only way to true life and joy. There is no room here for ambition, politics, empowerment, self fulfilment, self actualisation or control.

Pope Francis in his latest exhortation Evangelii Gaudium states that, “Whenever our interior life becomes caught up in its own interests and concerns, there is no room for others, no place for the poor. God’s voice is no longer heard, the quiet joy of his love is no longer felt..”

Men in particular but women as well have contrived many alternatives to the way of the cross. Many have sought to reject Mary as a model of discipleship. But to say Mary’s way is not our way is to say Christ way is not our way for Mary in every respect is a disciple of her son. Mary’s words ring in our ears again “Do whatever he tells you.” And Jesus tells us to “take up your cross and follow me.”

It is only in our self surrender to our cross are we ready to hear and begin to understand Jesus words, “Behold, your Mother!”

“And I’m going with you.”

A couple of weekends I spent some time listening to Peter Kreeft talk about evil (and also good) in Lord of the Rings. It was, as always is with Kreeft, thought provoking and it got me thinking about what Tolkien does in the story.

The part that struck me particularly strongly, on this listening, was about the power of sacrifice in relation to evil in the book:

Frodo and Gandalf and Aragon are all, in different ways, martyrs, Christ figures. They undergo 3 different kinds of voluntary deaths and resurrections. Christ’s tomb was a rock; Gandalf’s was the Abyss of Moria; Aragorn’s was the Paths of the Dead and Frodo’s was the effect of the ring on his Spirit, which is incurable in Middle Earth.

Approaching Lent, I was very aware of that sense in the Spiritual Exercises of accompanying Christ in his Passion. The whole of Lent can have that feel to it. Firstly we walk with Jesus in the desert. Then we follow him to Jerusalem, to the garden of Gethsemane, to Calvary and then to the tomb, where his body is laid.

“Lord of the Rings” is not an allegory; Tolkein disliked allegory. However there are similarlities. Kreeft says elsewhere:

So even though The Lord of the Rings is not an allegory of the Gospels, we can find numerous parallels to the Gospels in The Lord of the Rings, since the Person at the center of the Gospels is omnipresent in hidden ways, not only in His eternal, universal nature as Truth, Goodness, and Beauty, but even in His particular historical manifestation, His Incarnation. For instance, Frodo’s journey up Mount Doom is strikingly similar to Christ’s Way of the Cross. Sam is his Simon of Cyrene, but he carries the cross bearer as well as the cross.

There is something about our own journey through Lent, this walking with Jesus than can been seen when we look at Sam. Sam was not the Ring Bearer. He did not have that responsibility, that burden. However he can travel with Frodo, share the hardships of the journey, share the food, while there is still some left. In the end he can carry Frodo towards Mount Doom, where the Ring is to be dealt with once and for all (although it is not Frodo who will do the dealing.)

We are only at the beginning, at the start of the walk through the desert. Maybe Jerusalem is not yet on the horizon. In my following Christ, can I be a willing and loyal as Sam was to Frodo? This is the invitation to me this year.

The Seven Last Words 2: “With me in Paradise.”

‘Today you will be with me in Paradise.’

Here we witness the encounter of Jesus and the two thieves that are crucified alongside him. Both criminals would have seen the particular attention that Jesus drew from the religious leaders and leading men of the city. They may have already heard of Jesus before they found themselves crucified alongside him. If not, then the insults from the crowds along the Via Dolarosa to Golgotha and now from the gathered crowd and passers by would certainly have made it clear that this Jesus claimed some divine kingship and power that was the reason for his unjust crucifixion.

One of the criminals decided to join in and berate Jesus as well. Maybe he was half driven mad by his agony but then again if you did have some divine power wouldn’t this be the time to use it? Surely no-one would stay in this place of torture if they could get out of it and if they could get out of it wouldn’t he free us as well?

The second criminal is much more sober in his response to Jesus. Crucifixion is a long slow death and this criminal would have had time to reflected on his journey and ask ‘how on earth did I end up here?’ He seems to have understood that although he might identify the role of others that contributed to him ending up being crucified he himself played his own part. It may have been the accumulations of a number of small but wrong decisions and actions but he is aware and admits his own faults and failings that have led to this place. He has also become convinced, if of nothing else, of Jesus’ innocence.

He speaks because he cannot bear to hear anymore abuse directed to the innocent Jesus. ‘Have you no fear of God at all?’ He said. ‘You got the same sentence as he did, but in our case we deserved it: we are paying for what we did. ‘But this man has done nothing wrong.’ Without even realising it he rebukes the unjust and bears witness to Jesus before the gathered crowds. Does he believe that Jesus is a king when he then asks Jesus, ‘remember me when you come into your kingdom’? Certainly true nobility is not found in royal robes but in a silent dignity, wisdom and an ability to see and embody truth. After all God’s wisdom is so often hidden just below the surface of the seemingly ordinary. The thief certainly saw something in Jesus but maybe these were just kind words of charity to connect and let this ridiculed innocent man know he is not alone. In response Jesus tells him to his astonishment I am sure, ’today you will be with me in paradise.’

The second criminal is often referred to as the Good Thief with a sense of irony. Without even realising it this thief has pulled of the greatest heist in all history. He gets that which was not his by right, that which did not belong to him, and was not his to claim or posses. He is promised that which the heart of man desires above all things and drives all our passions – his entry into paradise. This prize comes to him when perhaps for the first time in his life he doesn’t scheme, plan, bribe, manipulate or expect. It come to him after he has acknowledge his sin, rebuked the unjust, borne witness to Jesus before others and reached out in an act of charity to another. Maybe we all need to become good thieves?

The two thieves and their response to Jesus, their dialogue with God, is maybe reflective of our own inner journey when we find ourselves at our own Golgotha. Sometimes but rarely are we totally innocent victims and often it is our own actions, mistakes and wrong choices that have led us to the place of our cross. We may indeed rant and rage at finding ourselves in this place of despair and desolation. However, it is only by honest reflection and acknowledgement that, unlike Jesus, we are so often masters of our own downfall. Only then are we able to see beyond the rage and discover that Jesus is there right alongside us. The Innocent One refuses to abandon me and continues to stay with me where ever I am, bears my sin, my pain and my folly. I am reminded of the Psalmist in 139/140 states: Where can I go from your Spirit? where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there also.’

Golgotha is unavoidable. It is the place where I am lost and further away for where I should be, at my wits end, powerless and trapped. Despair and darkness seem to be my only companions. Lifting my eyes and seeing Jesus, my folly and sin is open before him. I realise that I can claim no special privileges. All I can ask is that he remember me. Then and only then am I free to hear those most precious words, ‘today, you will be with me in paradise.’

Paradise is a Persian word that carries the image of a garden. The very last place that I’d expect to find the garden of paradise, restored Eden, is at Golgotha – yet it is here that the door to paradise is opened. The garden of Eden with all its beauty had at its centre the tree of Life. Adam’s disobedience made that tree of Life become the cursed tree of death for humanity. The Romans littered the hillside with a forest of crosses. At its centre, the cross on which Jesus hung, is that tree of cursed death. By his act of obedient love Jesus makes that cross of death become the tree of Life for us. It is only by the door of the cross that we are able to enter into the life of paradise. It is only by travelling to Golgotha ourselves, however reluctantly that we are able to hear the promise of Jesus ‘today you will be with me in paradise.’

Peace in the New Forest

On the first full day of our time in the New Forest, we were privileged to have a morning with Mgr. Edwin Barnes, who is part of the Bournemouth Ordinariate and lives nearby.

We had two sessions, the first being on the Peace. Fr Neil had asked Mgr. Barnes to talk about this partly because it is one of the things that changed when we became Catholics.

Mgr. Edwin talked for a little while on the history of the Peace and its function in the mass. As Anglicans we had been used to the Peace coming before the Eucharistic Prayer (after the Offertory Hymn.) Now it comes after the Amen and before the Agnus Dei.

The Anglican position is in the same place as in the Ambrosian Rite. The Peace signalled the point at which the Catechumens were sent out. Before they were received into the Church they were not allowed at the Eucharist. It was suggested that this position of the Peace, placed during reforms of the C of E liturgy in the 20th Century might have been about “not disturbing the holy part of the Eucharist.”

If the Peace is about welcome and relations between the faithful this is fine. However there is an aspect of the Peace that is not this.

In the Peace the Priest and People seal the action of the Eucharist. The Peace has to happen to show that the People give their assent to what has happened. Here and at the great Amen this happens.

The group reflected on what they had heard. The different position of the Peace was one of the difficult parts of moving to the Catholic Church. Some people found the different position disruptive initially, where we had been used to having it before the Eucharistic Prayer.

Some people were struck by the corporate nature of the Eucharist, reflecting on the Peace acting as assent. Mass is not ‘my special time with God’ but is done in the context of the community. There is a powerful image in people consciously assenting. The importance of the Liturgical nature of the peace is vital.

There was an important link for some, in thinking about the ‘putting things right with my neighbour’ aspect of the Peace and its liturgical function.

Much came out of the session and I think that we will return to some of these issues as a community.

The Seven Last Words 1: Father forgive them.

“Father forgive them for they know not what they do” Luke 23:34

In Cambridge there is a common called Parker’s Piece that is just outside of the main city centre. Half way across the common is a lamp post that had been named ‘reality check point’. Students some times needing to get away from the intensity of the University would come to ‘reality check point’ and go out into the ‘real world’ to reorientate themselves before heading back to the twilight zone of university life.

So often we can find ourselves disconnecting our spiritual life, with its mystery, numinous and other worldly nature, from our normal every day existence. We may even find ourselves after a moving spiritual encounter in prayer or worship saying, ‘ O well, back to reality.’

Our encounter with the Cross is a clear remedy to such wayward thinking. As we contemplate the crucified we discover with an intense shock that, far from other worldliness, here is a brutal reality. This is an encounter with our ‘reality check point’ which we must stop at even though we’d rather rush by in our haste to enter the joy of Easter. At this our ‘reality check point’ we encounter the paradox that in this senseless act of cruelty and violence of the crucified we are forced to come to our senses – to come face to face with the reality of ourselves, who and what we are.

True, brutalised Roman soldiers carried out the crucifying of Jesus and yet we realise that we, with the crowds of the first century, on Palm Sunday and Good Friday will cry out “Crucify him!” The shocking reality we face is that we continue to cry out “crucify him!” with every act of betrayal, unfaithfulness and cruelty leading from our rejection of God’s commandments to love him above all else and our neighbour as ourselves.

In the light of the ‘reality check point’ of the Cross, I see more clearly the many delusions I have created for myself and which I present to others. In the One on the cross I become aware that he is my Alpha and Omega, my beginning and my end. This truth is not for me alone however. Here is also the axis on which everything turns from the smallest particle to the immensity of the universe itself – everything finds its true meaning and purpose in the presence of the One on the cross. In contemplating Jesus as he hangs on the cross I see what and who I truly am – there is no hiding place from this concrete reality of the crucified one before me.

I have to come to my senses like the Prodigal Son and return to the father and confess ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your Son.’ It is in the first moments of our returning, our repentance, that we hear those incredible words, ‘Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’ It is like the rushing embrace of the father as he runs to gather his son into his arms at the first sight of his returning. In the cross we not only see the truth about ourselves but we are confronted with the shocking reality of the nature of God.

Basil Hume spoke of the sense of urgency in Jesus’ words of intercession, as if He was looking for anyway possible way for us to know forgiveness. The one we thought shamed and humiliated by the cross reveals the truth that it is those who crucify, who allow and participate in mans inhumanity to man, are the ones shamed and humiliated by our actions. Even in the agony of this perfected form of torture and death Jesus shows us something of the heart of God and his compassion and concern for us who have wondered far from home and are alone and lost bowed down by our pains, hurts and sins.

The Cross our ‘reality check point’ then is not just about us but we come to understand that it is primarily about the reality of the nature of God and his love for all that he has made. Timothy Radcliff says that what comes first at the moment of our return is not condemnation, begrudging accommodation, humiliation, accusation or punishment, all of which we might have expected and in some ways felt we deserved but instead forgiveness. The Father is not going to deny his son when he pleads ‘Father, forgive them for they know not what they do’. Indeed Jesus reveals the very will of the Father in pronouncing these words. This is a pure gift of grace which cannot be earned by any works of ours and can only be received as a free gift in all humility.

Timothy Radcliff goes on to say that every sin we have or will commit is already forgiven here on the cross. The triumph of this sacrifice of divine love has once and for all defeated sin and death. ‘I saw Satan fall like lighting from heaven.’ (LK10: 17-18). Is this cheap grace? Does it not belittle the seriousness of sin? Here at the foot of the cross one cannot escape from the brutal reality of the seriousness of sin. Jesus himself is the one who tells us to pluck out our eye if it causes us to sin (MK 9: 47). This is no cheap grace. Yes, our forgiveness is already assured, made ready like a present for us but it is up to us wether we appropriate it or not. This free gift of forgiveness can only be grafted into our hearts by our hearts being made ready by true repentance and humility – pretending to be sorry will not do and does not work. Just saying the words I am sorry, as if it were some magical formula, while not being truly sorry just doesn’t wash. To stand before this ‘reality check point’ where all pretences are banished and all truth is laid bear is no easy place to be and why so many rush on by.

But stay here a while so that you and I with all that the past has been and whatever the future might be, are able to hear those words of Jesus, ‘ Father forgive them for they know not what they do.’

Foolish love.

Here is Fr Neil’s sermon from a couple of weeks ago:

Jesus continues to teach what fulfilling the law means. Jesus expands and deepens God’s revelation of himself in the Law and the Prophets. Later, in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus will summarise by saying, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind’. This is the greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love you neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the prophets hang on these two commandments.”

But we-like the expert in the Law, who wants to justify himself-may want to ask, “Who is my neighbour?” In Luke, Jesus tells the famous story of the Good Samaritan. Here, in his Sermon on the Mount, he also explores what loving your neighbour means and who our neighbour is.

One might forgive the disciples for being slightly shocked after already hearing that their righteousness must exceed the scribes and the Pharisees. Jesus then, basically, goes on to say that the neighbour you must love is the one who strikes you on the cheek; your neighbour is your enemy and the one who persecutes you. It is only by loving such as these that we will be able to come close to explaining and understanding that perfect love, which is our Father in Heaven.

But surely to act in such a manner would make us out to be fools in the eyes of the worlds? Does not our own sense of justice (or is it retribution?) require an eye for an eye, a hand for a theft? Only a fool would not expect payback when we are wronged- this worldly wisdom is perhaps behind our litigious society? However, that (wrongly attributed) saying of Ghandi, ‘An eye for an eye will leave the whole world being blind’ hints at a deeper wisdom than that of the world.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts; neither are your ways my ways” declares the Lord.” God’s way would seem folly to the wise of the World. Evil cannot comprehend the way of divine love.

Jesus asks nothing of his disciples that he himself would not face himself. He turned the other cheek to those who would beat and scourge him. Although he could call 12 legions of angels to his aid, he put himself into the hands of his enemies and persecutors. He would receive the kiss of betrayal and while on the cross would cry “Father forgive, for they do not know what they are doing.”

Why? What foolish love is this? It is the foolish love of God for all that he has made. It is rooted in a truth that everything that is made, however marred by sin it is, carries the mark of its creator.

Jesus perceives that icon of God even within his enemies and out of love is willing to die so that image may be recovered; that alienation healed; that we might become again that holy dwelling place of the Lord. A temple fit for the Holy Spirit of God.

Are you a follower of Jesus? Then recognise the mark of God in all and allow a love to grow within, that is not our own. Let our love make us fools in the eyes of the world because it is only the foolish love of the divine that can make this blind world see again.