“..before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you came to birth I consecrated you; I have appointed you as prophet to the nations” Poor Jeremiah terrified at God’s reasoning as to why, with his thin religious pedigree, he wanted/needed him to be his prophet, his spokesman, his correspondent..a Fergal Keane ..Jeremiah’s initial reaction is kept back from us, too human too familiar.. “Ah Lord look, I do not know how to speak; I am a child.” ..reminds me of my Mum bless her..she would ask me questions on faith & Catholicism even in her 90’s..& she’d say “remember Frank I am a convert “ “I don’t know how to speak; I am a child” she became a Catholic when she married my Dad..I’d smile & say “Mother, you converted to Catholicism 64 yrs ago!”
for times we too plead ignorance or lack of experience in our discipleship, in a vain attempt to keep below the divine radar, let us ask for Our Lord’s smile of understanding forgiveness & insistence..”yes, it is you..”
“so now brace yourself for action ; stand up & tell them all I command you” ; Lord have mercy “..they shall fight against you but shall not overcome you..” ; Christ have mercy “..for I am with you to deliver you..it is the Lord who speaks..” ; Lord have mercy May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins & bring us to everlasting life. Amen.
..in one of our Advent reflection evenings we shared with Rev Catherine Reid & St Hilda’s we looked at painting entitled “Christ in the House of his Parents” by John Millais; it depicts a young Jesus in carpenters shop with Joseph & Mary; Joseph caringly taking nailor splinter out of Jesus’s hand whilst his mother comfortingly kisses his cheek..it took me back to the suffering Jesus about to shoulder his Cross on Good Friday, & a reflection by Sarah Maitland where Jesus looks back to the family home “this is Joseph’s son surely?” “perhaps it is the smell of wood, perhaps it is all the times from childhood that he carried heavy planks from the shed to the workshop in Nazareth, perhaps it is the sunshine or the sweet humility of God, but when his heart cries Abba his memory doesn’t give him the power & strength of the Almighty God, but instead with bright clarity, he sees his other father, the carpenter, with his strong clever hands, his infinite patience & his profound calm detachment. Joseph. His memory smiles. When he was younger he used to resent that detachment. His father loved his mother absolutely, generously & above all things; you could see it in every movement & moment they were together..& as his father loved his mother, so his mother loved her son, & Joseph never moved to claim her back, or to claim him. He never quite knew what, if anything, it was that he had stolen from Joseph. But he had grown up, he knows now, understanding that the ways of love are complex; twisted & twined around desire, around faith & hope, pity & praise. Around passion & freedom. Now he needs that profound calm love because he has to lug this cross out through the gate,up through the city, & onto the little hill where they are waiting for him. He shifts the cross awkwardly on his bleeding shoulder & Joseph reaches out & balances it for him”go with the grain” he says as he said over & over again, leaning over the bench & covering the boy’s hands with his own skilful knowledgeable ones “you’re not a warrior with an enemy, you’re a carpenter with a piece of wood. You’re on the same team; let it tell you..go with the grain.” He had known, early & certainly, that he’d never be as good a carpenter as his father was. Now he knows he will never be as good a father either. Each to their own. Go with the grain.” In some ways very close to 2nd rdg from St Paul; so beloved of engaged couples, chosen for their marriage, a mission statement for their eternal life together; for all its beauty, love can never be put it into words, far deeper more complex & intimate than words/language..like Fr Ian Petit’s challenge to describe taste of an orange to someone who has never tasted one..can’t say not as chewy as banana nor as sour as a lemon..impossible..so why try to describe faith hope & love to someone who has yet to experience it?..1st or 3 millionth time, to realise it & every time, & for all time, it will always be beyond description..its essence is relationship, an intimacy that, at crucial moments, has to go against the grain..like Jeremiah, he was told to challenge the deepest convictions of his fellow citizens, to stand firm in face of slander, to upbraid the people for their laxity, in short to go against the grain..the accidental nail at workbench of family life, when something said or done inflicts pain woundedness, then both victim & perpetrator need to down tools, & give full & undivided attention to addressing the pain, stemming blood & learning for next time..there will always be accidents/mistimings of what is said or how it is heard, when truth & conviction have to stand up & out from the normal, & go against the grain..making love doesn’t come to an end, it is always in the process of becoming; always reforming “semper reformanda” the mission statement of our Catholicism..story of traveller crossing desert, arid featureless..a tiny blip on horizon; as he walks toward it, sees an old man squatting over vat of liquid on a wood fire..every so often old man takes ladel, skims off thin film dross on top of liquid..the traveller asks gently how long will he continue to do this?..”until I can look into liquid & see the face of God” when he becomes totally subsumed into image likeness & love of God..when he tastes the orange for first time”now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror but then we shall be seeing face to face”..go home & balance the cross for your beloved.. [4thSunYrC Lk4;21-30]