Dear One and All,
Well here we are once again; don’t the weeks just fly by? However, isn’t it great to have some warmer weather back with us again, I felt cheated from the touch of Spring when we had that recent cold snap! Much has happened in the world since last week, the September 11 Remembrance Services in America, coupled with the ongoing tragic circumstances in the Middle East, and the Horn of Africa. In the midst of all this, God’s Word continues to echo around the world and throughout the Cosmos….’If today you hear his voice, harden not your hearts’. However, there are so many hopeful situations happening in our world which we don’t hear about! Good News does not always sell Newspapers, let alone any Media where News is conveyed to our Living Rooms, and Kitchens. It is often sad to see people being nourished on bad news and negativity; it breeds gloominess, depression, hatred, cranky and tight-fisted people. But it is mostly the quiet achievers that are everywhere, and in so many situations where life giving relationships and harmony happen, without much ado, that does not hit the headlines.
Tuesday’s The Daily Telegraph ( Sept 13) had a fantastic front page; a picture speaking a thousand words; gracious Aussie Grand Sam Stosur, wins the US Open Tennis final at Flushing Meadows 6-2,6-3. The article goes on to say that Sam had to work hard for this all her tennis life, despite lots of odds against her. Our question is: What made her do it? What made her get out of bed so early every morning, and to train, train and train?
It seems that the answer is that she was inspired by other great Tennis players. Notice that it is the spark within that was lit, when she became truly inspired, and then working with her potential, she grew into the Player that she is, through blood, sweat and tears! The unmistakeable joy on her face on that front page says it all.
Let’s take Sam Stosur’s Tennis growth, and ongoing performance as a metaphor for what can be achieved, if one takes hold of the inspiration, and allows the process of growth through coaching to transform her into an athlete beyond her belief. That is the kind of process which enabled the generous Manager to be so generous to his Employees in today’s Gospel. Let’s go deep sea diving into God’s Word to see the process.
In the first Reading from the Prophet Isaiah, we know that the inspirer, par excellence is God! The inspiration has been seen, experienced and understood through the constant manifestations of God’s mercy to His people…’our God is rich in forgiving; for my thoughts are not your thoughts, my ways not your ways, it is the Lord who speaks.’ But the Lord God does not leave it at that, he says through the Prophet, ‘Let the evil one abandon their way, the evil one their thoughts, let them turn back to the Lord who will take pity on them. Pity is not a distant word of objectivity; when we look at the Greek Dictionary, by E.W Bullinger, Page 586, we get some very important understandings about the root meaning of this word. It says, having fellow-feeling, of great tender heartedness, with good healthy bowels! Now that last phrase might have you wondering? If it does, that is very good! Let’s go further with that last phrase. In our day to day life, where in our body do we automatically have a response/feeling to fright? Happiness? Sorrow? Distress? Joy? Yes, you know the answer, in the region of our bowels. In our guts…our ‘gut reaction’. Our ancestors in faith were not scientists or having medical and psychological knowledge that we have nowadays. Our ancestors in faith knew that when the very pit of their body was moved, a very strong feeling, and behaviour followed in relationships both good and bad! Food for thought, eh? Now I would like to connect this experience to one that I had when I was stationed in England.
Back in the 90’s I had the wonderful experience of visiting St.Edmund’s Chapel in Dover, which was only excavated and restored in 1968. The chapel had been dedicated to St.Edmund by his friend Bishop Richard of Chichester, the great champion for the poor and neglected whose generosity and holiness was totally unbounded. Let’s hold onto that fact as we journey on in our deep sea diving. Here is a sketch of the Chapel, and here is a small blurb about it.
Near to the Maison Dieu the monks of the Priory of St Martin established a cemetery for the poor with its own small chapel. The chapel, dedicated to St Edmund, was consecrated on 30 March 1253 by Bishop Richard of Chichester. St Richard had always wanted to dedicate a chapel to St Edmund, who had been his friend. The fulfilment of this wish was one of Richard’s last acts as he died four days later in the Maison Dieu. After his death Richard’s body was returned to the chapel to be ‘eviscerated’ (have the internal organs removed) in preparation for the journey to Chichester Cathedral to be buried. The viscera were buried in the chapel altar and both places later became places of pilgrimage.
The chapel was dissolved along with the Maison Dieu in 1544. Its history since then is only sketchily known. Immediately after the dissolution, it was probably still associated with the fortunes of the Maison Dieu and became part of a victualling store for the Navy. After that it became a store-house for the shops which came to be built in Biggin Street. In the middle of the nineteenth century it was converted into a two-floor building, and became a dwelling-house and forge.
In 1943 artillery shells destroyed the two shops hiding the chapel on the Priory Road side, leaving the chapel itself untouched. Attempts to get it scheduled as an Ancient Monument in 1963 failed and it was scheduled for demolition. In 1965, however, it was privately purchased and restored in 1967-8. At least 75 percent of the building seen today is original.
Now, to the left hand side of the Altar as the Priest faces the people; there was a small cistern. The locals called it a Cist! Now this Cist would have been about 3 feet by 2 feet at the most, and about 18 inches deep. When Richard of Chichester died, his entrails were divided up between his own Cathedral and St.Edmund’s Chapel. Keeping in mind what we got from the Greek Dictionary, some of his bowels, as well as a lung, and part of his brain were placed into the Cist, and a slab sealed it off. Why do you think our ancestors in faith did this? Well, I think that you have got the answer; the locals wanted to have some of that part of their great Bishop/Saint with them always, when they celebrated the Eucharist, so that his remembrance would inspire them to similar generosity and love, which empowered St.Richard. This was not a form of superstition; it was real for the locals because they knew where the seat of all feelings was located, and their constant prayer, reminded by the presence of the Cist would inspire them in their Christian lives. Now, it is at this point that I will depart this section of the homilie, because I could go on and on with lots of other instances where, and why this happened during the Middle Ages, and well before hand into Pagan superstition. We have covered enough to get the point across.
Now let’s hang on to the seat of generosity and unbounded love…..QUESTION? We must be curious here, so what part of God is the basis for the growth in unconditional pity, mercy and generosity? It would seem the answer is the inner change of heart that takes place in and through ‘experienced forgiveness’. It is from that threshold that all the gifts that St.Paul speaks about in his Letter to the Galatians, have their Genesis within, and given by the Holy Spirit!
Now as we look at today’s Gospel in our times, and in all times, the manager was stupid! How could he make a living by treating his employees with such unbounded generosity? The answer seems to have nothing to do with the Mercantile World, but within the higher order of the mission of the Church in bringing Heaven to Earth as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. ‘Thy will be done on earth, as it is in Heaven.’
Now, let’s look at the grumbling employees; they are not within a bull’s roar of catching onto the spiritual dimension of generosity, and the kind of unconditional generosity of God! We are called to be as St.Paul says, ‘Fools for Christ’s sake.’ God’s ways are not mankind’s ways! Yet we are called to the higher order. QUESTION? What hinders us from attaining that kind of ‘life-living’ which has its seat deep within us? That’s the 60 Million Dollar question, isn’t it? That is for us as individuals to answer. The last line of the Gospel is a Twitter Message for all times….’Why be envious, when I am generous?’
Let’s finish with a little story which has a profound meaning for us…
ATTORNEY AND JUDGEMENT!
After living what I felt was a “decent” life, my time on earth came to the end. The first thing I remember is sitting on a bench in the waiting room of what I thought to be a courthouse. The doors opened and I was instructed to come in and have a seat by the defence table.
As I looked around I saw the “prosecutor.” He was a villainous looking gent who snarled as he stared at me. He definitely was the most evil person I have ever seen. I sat down and looked to my left and there sat My Attorney, a kind and gentle looking man whose appearance seemed so familiar to me, I felt I knew Him.
The corner door flew open and there appeared the Judge in full flowing robes. He commanded an awesome presence as He moved across the room. I couldn’t take my eyes off of Him. As He took His seat behind the bench, He said, “Let us begin.”
The prosecutor rose and said, “My name is Satan and I am here to show you why this man belongs in hell.” He proceeded to tell of lies I told, things I stole, and in the past when I cheated others. Satan told of other horrible perversions once in my life and the more he spoke, the further down in my seat I sank. I was so embarrassed, I couldn’t look at anyone, even my own Attorney, as the Devil told of sins even I completely forgotten about. As upset as I was at Satan for telling all these things about me, I was equally upset at My Attorney who sat there silently not offering any form of defence at all. I know I was guilty of those things, but I did some good in my life – couldn’t that at least equal out part of the harm I’d done?
Satan finished with a fury and said, “This man belongs in hell, he is guilty of all I have charged and there is not a person who can prove otherwise.”
When it was His turn, My Attorney first asked if He might approach the bench. The Judge allowed this over the strong objection of Satan, and beckoned Him to come forward. As He got up and started walking, I was able to see Him in His full splendour and majesty. I realized why He seemed so familiar; this was Jesus representing me, my Lord and my Saviour.
He stopped at the bench and softly said to the Judge, “Hi, Dad,” then He turned to address the court. “Satan was correct in saying this man sinned, I won’t deny any of these allegations. And, yes, the wage of sin is death, and this man deserves to be punished.”
Jesus took a deep breath and turned to His Father with outstretched arms and proclaimed, “However, I died on the cross so this person might have eternal life and he accepted Me as his Saviour so he is Mine.”
My Lord continued with, “His name is written in the Book of Life and no one can snatch him from Me. Satan still does not understand yet. This man is not to be given justice, but rather mercy.”
As Jesus sat down, He quietly paused, looked at His Father and said, “There is nothing else that needs to be done. I’ve done it all.”
The Judge lifted His mighty hand and slammed the gavel down. The following words bellowed from His lips… “This man is free The penalty for him was already paid in full. Case dismissed”
As my Lord led me away, I could hear Satan ranting and raving, “I won’t give up, I will win the next one.”
I asked Jesus as He gave me my instructions where to go next, “Have you ever lost a case?” Christ lovingly smiled and said, “Everyone that comes to Me and asked Me to represent them, received the same verdict as you, “PAID IN FULL.”
May God Bless you and your loved ones, and may we never forget each other the next time that we are held in prayerful conversation with the Lord,