I write from a rather humble Longteng Hotel in downtown Cong Jiang with the rooster crowing next door and, as I am on the sixth floor and it is only 5.25 pm, I await the coming dawn in trepidation.
It is Corpus Christi.
The first reading has Melchizedek bringing bread and wine.
Paul recalls the tradition handed on to him: “The Lord Jesus took some bread.”
The Gospel recalls “We have no more than five Loaves and two fish.”
Another account recalls that they had “five barley loaves.” Wheaten loaves were the bread of the Roman soldiers. It is recorded that one reason Caesar conquered Spain was to assure his supply of wheat for his legions. They would not accept the common bread of the ordinary folk…perhaps a little meditation there in your spare time. I find myself in this part of China and bread shops are few and far between the rice paddy and the tea plantations. We have seen bread in a few hotels that advertise WESTERN breakfast. That generally means a toaster, some community butter, perhaps honey or maybe jam. So bread is another obstacle to the locals when the powers that be oppose our faith on the grounds that it is foreign. Our faith is foreign to all cultures. The challenge is that it is more foreign to some, just ask our own indigenous peoples, and to find the appropriate symbols is the challenge from our current Pope.
Maybe this week Teams can remind themselves of, and try to alert others to, the value of true gathering, sharing, giving and receiving around both our Teams tables and our family table.
Then we may be able to entice others to the grand mystery of the Eucharistic table.
Reporting from Yuda International Hotel Laibin, China; a city of millions and about 100 kms from Nanning, the capital of this area, with a population of 6 million.
It is Trinity Sunday with not a Church of any description to be seen and our Guide rather reluctant to find any, if they even exist.
The truth we celebrate today is considered the principle truth of our faith. It reveals a fundamental insight into our knowledge (very imperfect) and our understanding (somewhat lacking) of our God who, in our tradition, has sought fit to reveal the Godhead to us down the centuries: sometimes in dramatic ways (just ask Moses), and in other ages in the gentle breeze. And in our time, through sending Jesus His Son to redeem the whole human race. I am here in a land of 1.1 billion people, most of whom have not heard the story and the few who have are still being denied complete freedom of worship. Where do you start?
Being fanciful, a small way could be the Teams approach. The believers gathered in their homes say the Acts of the Apostles. Let us still so gather and perhaps this day we whisper these simple words: “Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit”.
Pentecost. Year C
It is Pentecost yet again.
A little history:
The celebration is linked with the Jewish feast of Weeks (Shavuot) celebrated 7 weeks after day two of Passover.
Passover for the Jews celebrates the freeing of the Jews from slavery; Shavuot celebrates their becoming God’s Holy People by the gift and acceptance of the law.
Shavuot was a pilgrimage feast, so Jews and others were present in Jerusalem, even in 33AD.
Pilgrimage is essential to human development and more so for many, it is the way to advance our spiritual lives. We have celebrated our deliverance from sin and death in our Easter. Our race had some time with him as resurrected and now we are not left orphans but have the fullness of the Trinity.
I’m not sure how the new Missionaries are coping with the new China. On the surface I think Francis Xavier would pause. Their difficulties may be a little like ours. As the song said, “How are you going to keep them down on the farm when they have seen Broadway?”
Maybe that is why we have the Spirit.
Maybe we need to allow the Spirit to have its say more often. Come Holy Spirit!
I report to you today from Joe Beach, Krishnan, Mahabalipuram India.
I am attending a conference titled Cardijn Today –Inequality, Ecology and Diversity at Mahabalipuram Kanchipuram district, about 44kms south of Chennai. I have been invited by CCI International to make a presentation on behalf of the early chaplains to YCW. Our numbers are thin now and I am one of the few in the bottom of the barrel. I have the resolution of one question…Fr Henri was a Chaplain at the National Secretariat of the French JOC (YCW) in 1930. I must tell HQ. Ten nations are present representing seven movements inspired by Cardijn. Inspiring!
Today is the Feast of the Ascension. We won’t debate when or where it physically happened, but it seems quite clear that in the mind of Jesus, he had to return to the Father before the Holy Spirit would be sent. One presumes that that decision was for our good, perhaps to help us reflect upon the “little while until you will see me”. We always want to know the schedule, the time to attend, let alone the time to end so we can get on to the next item on the agenda, “it is not for you to know the times or dates” (a bit like this meeting).
It seems that the Holy Spirit has its own agenda and timing, even in 33 AD, and to make the point that the Apostles were left alone for some time. On reflection, maybe the great gift of Pope Benedict was not simply resigning, but announcing his decision and giving time for the world, and the Cardinal, to have “a little time”. It gave all time to allow the Spirit to work in all sorts of people to enable its candidate to be considered and elected: a process which seems to work in Teams.
Take a little time for yourselves this day.
We are experiencing WIFI difficulties here too…so pray.
The prayer of Jesus, “Holy Father, may they all be one”, is particularly poignant today. In other years we would be remembering St Joseph the Worker. How many Australian young people were bought up with the prayer “St Joseph, a worker like me”?
May 1 became the battle day in the last century between labour and capital and one person who sought to bridge the gap, motivated in part by the teaching of Jesus about the dignity of labour, particularly young labourers, was Joseph Cardijn the founder of the YCW.
An international conference on his legacy and a review of current Cardijn inspired works, begins in Chennai next week. I am heading there. In the meantime, HK is readying for a long weekend with all China to celebrate May Day. What timing!
The call of Jesus to be one “as you are in me and I am in you” is a lofty and mysterious invitation. Our world, let alone our Church, is divided by so many issues. Dealing with the fallout from sexual abuse is not simply between leader and led but also about the role of Church and place of Church in our world. Such tensions are not new. We celebrated the Feast of St Catherine of Sienna last Friday. Her journey was atypical. So many of our canonised Saints seemed to withdraw from the world but Catherine was called from her secluded choice to enter public life. She was instrumental in encouraging Pope Gregory to reform the Clergy and the administration of the Papal States. She was instrumental in bringing peace between the warring City States. Shades of the current Pope; and all this beginning in the year 1370. As usual, we all caught up with her in 1970 when Paul VI made her a Doctor of the Church!
The great sign of the early Christians was “see how they love one another.” Also the Acts reveal for a short time the oneness of the believers. Tensions and divisions arose, sometimes resolved, often discord prevailed for some time.
Let us pray and work for unity in our time.