Dewdrops on Leaves

Dewdrops on Leaves
"Send down the dew, ye heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain the Just One: let the earth be opened, and bud forth the Redeemer."

Thursday, 4 September 2014

The Real Me

Painting by Fr. Sieger Koder
There is a very colourful painting by the German priest-artist,  Fr Sieger Koder which depicts a clown putting on a mask. The mask is placed in such a way that it hides half the face of the person who holds it.   Koder called it “The Real Me.”
A clown of course is one of the oldest figures in the world. We love clowns, we laugh at their antics, we believe that they are real persons.  But they aren’t. Clowns are essentially tragic figures, or sad figures, or figures of derision.
Why is this, I wonder?  Probably because they hide the real person behind the mask.  They press down their worries, their fears their loneliness, their psychoses behind a funny, painted mask.  They spend their entire professional lives on stage, in circuses, in entertainment – yet they are rarely seen as they are.  They are poseurs.
Jesus once asked the apostles “Who do you think I am?”  The answers came out as “John the Baptist”, or “Elijah” or “one of the prophets.”   Only Peter said “You are the Christ.” 

And Jesus recognised that Peter could only have known who he was through the power of the Holy Spirit who guided him to the truth.  The others recognised Jesus in part, but the ideas that were current then about the Messiah dominated their thinking, and they wanted Jesus to be a conqueror, a success figure, a man of property with a court, where they of course would be leaders and men of success. That was Judas’s downfall. He really believed that Jesus was to be a human success, get rid of the Romans, make the Jews a nation which could conquer the world. And the reality was so different that he couldn’t take it. We all like to  be part of a success story, but perhaps we need to look more closely at what we mean by success!
But where does all this lead us? We were talking about being real.  In order to live a happy life – we might call it a successful life – we must recognise who we are, what our gifts are, how we can use them to help others, not just ourselves.  As we get older we tend to know ourselves more. Experience has taught us what makes for true happiness, or it should have done.  The world around us seems to be populated with so many who seek power, money and adulation of one kind or another.  We must belong to the A team, we must make a lot of money, we must be beautiful, chic, trend-setters etc.  But not all of us can do that, and we begin to think of ourselves as failures.  In Liverpool they call that being “not much kop!”
But Jesus told us that it is in our weakness that we are strong. He proved it on the Cross. It was in that hell-hole of pain, humiliation, derision, blasphemy and hatred that he won the battle for us – gave us life, hope and salvation through his Resurrection.

But to avail of this stupendous gift, won for us through the weakness, pain and humiliation of Jesus, we too, like him, have to learn to be real. When we come to eternity, we will know for certain whether or not we have become real, and have fought against the temptations to outward success, power, too much money and lust. Not necessarily in that order!
Have you ever read a child’s story called “The Velveteen Rabbit?” Like all tales supposedly told for children, it has an adult meaning. It is all about becoming real. Margery Williams tells the story through the eyes of a stuffed rabbit who finds out that to be real  you have to give and receive unconditional love. This is the conversation he has with the skin horse:

“What is REAL?” said the rabbit one day. “ Does it mean having things that buzz inside you, and have a stick-out handle?” “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the skin horse. “it’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time; not just to PLAY WITH. BUT REALLY LOVES YOU , you become REAL.”
“Does it hurt?” asked the rabbit. 

“Sometimes.” said the skin horse, for he was always truthful.

“When you are real. “ he added, “you don’t mind being hurt.”
“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up, or bit by bit?”
“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the skin horse. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be ‘carefully kept’. Generally, by the time you are REAL, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out,  and you get loose in the joints, and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because, once you are REAL you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

All reality has to do with love. Unconditional love. It is about learning to love others unconditionally, warts and all, and it is of course about accepting that we are loved unconditionally by an infinitely loving God.  It isn’t easy to do that, but, In the words of the skin horse, “when you are real, you don’t mind being hurt."
It’s what discipleship is all about.
Watch the Velveteen Rabbit as told by Meryl Streep

Sunday, 4 May 2014


The lilies and daffodils gracing our Easter gardens  in our churches may be fading a little after a week, but Easter, with all its life and colour and hope is very much with us.

One of the Easter hymns I have always loved says trenchantly:

“We are Easter people, and alleluia is our song!” 

That’s a pretty strong statement, isn’t it.  The most important thing about us is that we are people of the Resurrection.  

Is that how you feel this morning?  It is dull outside, but, as I look at our little garden, I am filled with hope.  The Spring flowers know that they are things of beauty and colour.  They bloom happily and bravely in spite of our inconsistent weather. In fact, they use the winds and the rain to shine out and remind us that , underneath all the frustration, pain, loneliness and sickness that is part of every life, there is also the possibility of something better just around the corner. 

And that we can find colour and beauty and hope if we look for it.  That is being an Easter person. It’s good to be wakened up by birdsong rather than by the inharmonious sound of the alarm clock these days isn’t it. Our migrant  birds are back with us, giving us flashes of their bright green, blue or multi-coloured coats as they go about their business of feeding the young,  bathing themselves in our tiny bird baths, pecking the seeds we put out for them, and of course filling our world with song.  The birds too know it is Resurrection time. If you don’t yet realise that the lovely sounds filling our skies and our gardens, hedgerows and lanes are the bird’s version of ALLELUIA then listen to their song more attentively! 

To be an Easter person does not mean going around with a silly grin on our faces, or by telling people in pain or trouble that “it will get better.” That’s putting us in danger of being at best, surface sort of people, and at worst,  hypocrites.

We don’t know whether this trouble will immediately fade away because of our prayer.  What we do know is that God will help this person to bear the pain. As Easter people, our task is to support, to be there in good times and bad, to reach out and just hold their trembling hands.  Sometimes that is all we can do.  Words can sometimes be meaningless but a gentle presence is comforting. Easter people know that.

I am still chuckling over something one of our Sisters gave to me recently. She puts up a “Thought for the Week” for the staff in her organisation. This is the one I am chuckling about just now:

Dear Lord,
So far today I’m doing alright.
I have not gossiped, lost my temper, been greedy, grumpy, nasty, selfish or self-indulgent.
I have not whined, complained, cursed or eaten any chocolate.
I have charged nothing to my credit card.
I will be getting out of bed in a minute, and I think I will really need your help then!

Wonderful, isn’t it. But, although we cannot hear it often within our lives, Alleluia is really our song because, although we know what our clay is made of, we also know that we need help.  We need the hope that living in the power of the Resurrection gives us.  We also need to give that hope to others in any way we can – the comfort of a nice cup of tea, the smile that says “I’m so glad to see you”, the ear that is bent  towads others, listening attentively to what they are saying to us, letting them feel that they are important, no matter how old, how sick, how difficult they are. 

As Easter people we have the opportunity to put in love where it doesn’t exist, to BE that love at the centre of our world.  

What an opportunity!  HAPPY EASTER TIDE TO YOU ALL.

Photos used with permission of artist copyright (C)2014 Poor Servants of the Mother of God


Saturday, 22 March 2014

Our tainted nature’s solitary boast - William Wordsworth

This is the third line of The Ecclesiastical Poems written by Wordsworth in the early 1820’s. Although not known as a very religious man, Wordsworth wrote several religious poems in which he speaks of his emotion when looking at the world around him, which reminded him of a hidden deity whose hand was upon everything and who was behind the beauty and the life of our planet.  He was, of course, a worshipper of nature; he almost gives the impression in his poems of being pantheistic at times, but he has a genuine respect for Mary as a woman to be admired for her faith and her unique position as the one sinless creature in a world darkened by selfishness, greed and idolatry.
In the anticipation of the feast of the Annunciation on the 25th March, we too reach out in love and in joy to her whose courageous “yes” brought Christ to our world as one of us and, in doing that, opened the way to salvation, to hope and to blessedness. When we remember that she was only a young teenager at the time, we can only think of her great trust in God, and her courage in facing an unknown future. As a young woman from a small, isolated village, she knew what would happen to her when her neighbours realised that she was pregnant before she married Joseph. She understood the pain of knowing that they could throw her out of the village, or even have her stoned to death.
For Joseph, it must have been a terrible time of shock and consternation. He would have to make the decision to deal with the situation as the law allowed.  He loved Mary and did not understand what had happened.  He must, at first, have thought that she had been unfaithful to him. What else could he think?
We have the benefit of hindsight, and we know what happened – the salutation of the angel, the “yes” of Mary which changed human history for all time, the embrace of the Holy Spirit which brought life to Mary’s youthful womb, the wonderful peace and joy that filled her whole being as a tiny, pulsating embryo within her  -  the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob – took up its earthly existence. It was the “still point of the turning world”, the moment when, for the first time, Heaven and earth were joined together in the flesh of a young girl from Nazareth, that most despised of villages. The time when the hearts of Jesus and Mary were joined together in a union that was never to be broken. A time of reprieve for us, of hope for every son and daughter of Eve, of freedom and saving grace for the whole of humanity and of the vast reaches of the created world. Its repercussions are still being felt, and will continue to do so for all time.
As you know, March 25th is our special feast, celebrating as it does the birth of God’s greatest gift to us – his Son.  As Mary brought Christ to our world, so we perpetuate the Incarnation event by carrying Jesus spiritually to all those in need, all those who long for him, yet still sit in darkness and in the shadow of death.
When we celebrate this feast, let us remember those who are living lives of pain and misery, those who don’t yet know Jesus or experience his great love, those who are ignored and given no part in other people’s lives; those who are lonely, bereaved or without hope.  Jesus came to our world to show us how much we are loved.  He came to give us dignity and worth, to make us feel good about being human. 
We can celebrate too by remembering to respect the dignity of others, especially those who are handicapped, old, vulnerable or poor. That way we can thank God and his Mother in the best way possible, by showing how much we appreciate the gift of the Incarnation.
Have a lovely feast. We will remember you all in our prayers.